The 35 000 member strong trade unions of Energoatom, Ukraine’s state owned nuclear power generating company voted over the weekend to step up their demonstrations in central Kyiv. They have issued 3 demands to Ukrainian President Zelensky:-
- Dismiss Energy Minister Oleksiy Orzhel.
- Cut out the Ministry of Energy from the chain of command so that Energoatom reports directly to the Cabinet of Ministers.
- Reinstate Yuri Nedashkovsky as President of Energoatom.
Speaking with irritation, Media Director of the Nuclear Forum Association Olga Kosharnaya says, “There is not a single power engineer among Orzhel’s deputy ministers. Now his proposal is to divide Energoatom into four companies. Have you even consulted with anyone? I think that difficult times await us.”
The government is now in a challenging situation as there is not enough money in the budget to pay for “green energy”, which sees electricity purchased at one of the highest tariffs in Europe, and the authorities are forced to choose between canceling special prices (PSO), for which electricity is sold to the population cheaper than for industry, or to cut the feed-in tariffs for renewable power.
Energoatom is the producer of the cheapest of all types of electricity in Ukraine, and is already forced by the industry regulator to sell 90% of the energy it generates for PSO needs. But realistically it will have to be allowed to sell a higher percentage of its energy at a fair market price, if the company is ever to make sufficient profits to cover the maintenance and capital reinvestment costs essential for maintaining international safety standards.
Yuri Nedashkovsky has been President of Energoatom since March 2014. Before that he twice headed the state-owned company managing the country’s nuclear generation: from February 2005 to October 2006, and then from June 2008 to August 2012. Nedashkovsky’s tense relations with the Minister of Energy and the Environment, Oleksiy Orzhel, were known before last Friday’s abrupt cabinet decision to dismiss him.
Olga Kosharnaya explains: “Two years ago, the Energy Strategy for Ukraine was adopted: now a new minister has come and says that everything needs to be reviewed. Why? Because the Minister has his own convictions: he headed the Renewable Energy Association.”
In addition to his appointment as Minister, Orzhel is Chairman of the Ukrainian Renewable Energy Association, an organisation that he founded 5 years ago. Is it possible that there could be a conflict of interest in his position?
With winter temperatures starting to bite in Ukraine, this is really not the time for a government without any winter energy plan to pick a fight with the workers who produce more than half of Ukraine’s electricity.