Updated July 20, 2023

Many stakeholders from Ukraine, the European Union and around the globe, including just-in-time working groups, international financing institutions and the private sector, are currently engaged in “Made in Ukraine” green reconstruction agenda.  The challenges are colossal.

Half of Ukraine’s power generation infrastructure has been destroyed or badly damaged.  It makes little sense to reconstruct a tangled web of centralized energy distribution networks.  Rather the emerging consensus among key players is for decentralized area-specific clean energy solutions that can be built quickly, secure energy independence and offer less vulnerability to attacks by aggressors.

Equally important, energy inefficient buildings have been destroyed beyond repair in many entire cities and/or districts.  Interdisciplinary international groups are in place to plan the rebuilding of communities respecting circular economy and energy efficient criteria and Ukrainian architectural history.  These strategies call for using up to 90% of the rubble to minimize emissions during the construction process and the manufacturing of building materials.

Regarding farming equipment and practices, drones conceived, manufactured and precision operated in Ukraine, along with imports, positions Ukraine to be a world leader in applying drones for agricultural tasks without the need for heavy equipment and airplane dust spraying.

As well, green steelmaking, critical minerals and many other possibilities will be integrated into the transition.

No guarantees, but all pertinent players are readying in sync for the humongous tasks ahead.

Fossil fuels and war:  Climate change, energy independence and energy security

The need to phase out fossil fuels is not only about addressing climate change.

The barbaric Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted two other simultaneous fossil fuel crises which must be addressed.

One is the need to terminate dependencies on importing energy from a small number of geographic areas.  Such fossil fuel dependencies have “inspired” wars.   Russian fossil fuels have played major roles both as weapons and financing the invasion.

The other is energy security.  Centralized energy systems heighten vulnerability, easy power generation aggressor targets with labyrinths of distribution infrastructures constituting sitting ducks.

Howbeit, if every crisis is an opportunity, the post-war energy initiatives of Ukraine could become a climate action and sustainable urbanization blueprint for the world.

Disseminated energy infrastructure

Before the war, in 2021, nuclear accounted for 55% of power generation in Ukraine, coal 23.2%; gas 6.3% and renewables 13.5%.  The renewables energy pie comprises wind at 2.9%, solar 3.8%; and hydro 6.8%.

Energy installations have been prime targets of the Russian invaders, half of all energy installations are now either destroyed or badly damaged.

During the first year of the war, US$8.1 billion worth of damage was borne by the country’s energy sector.

The ease with which Russia damaged and took control of Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility, the largest in the country with 6 reactors, has the plant teetering on a potential catastrophe.  The power line to the Chornobyl nuclear power plant has been a target for the aggressors too.

As for coal, there is little chance that coal will make a comeback.  That’s because most of the mines have been flooded as a result of military targeting and are aging dating back to 1959 to 1967.  While 20% of coal thermal plants have been rebuilt, they cannot comply with European environmental standards.  No sense in including many of them in an energy reconstruction plan.

Even wind farms have also been targets, 90% have been damaged beyond repair.  Likewise, the departure of foreign renewables specialists is a causality of the war.

The stop-gap one time solution, the European Parliament’s Generators of Hope program to furnish hundreds of diesel-powered generators, is merely a band-aid.

Renewables, energy independence and decentralized distribution

A return to centralized energy distribution makes little sense for the reconstruction since it would entail humongous recreation of tangled webs of infrastructure and be vulnerable to enemy attacks.  That’s where a decentralized and green transformation comes in.  This is in sync with government of Ukraine reasoning.

Wind and solar are now the least expensive sources of power generation, microgrids (area-specific independent power supplies) can be installed quickly, and in a timely manner, to serve all communities and provide secure energy independence.  Energy security incorporates the inability for aggressors to wipe out energy supplies of vast areas.

The forced phase out centralized infrastructure offers a blank page for the greening of Ukraine energy landscape, second to none.  All other nations have sunk costs in infrastructure and maintenance systems/organizations, incrementally developed during the last century.

Among options under review, Ukrainian government is hoping for 50% renewables and 50% nuclear by 2030.  The renewables component represents a doubling of Ukraine’s pre-war renewables objective of 25% by 2030.

For Andriy Konechenkov, VP of the World Wind Energy Association and Chairman of the Ukrainian Wind Energy Association, there is a life and death urgent need to achieve energy independence totally liberated from fossil fuels.  Andriy Konechenkov believes the 2030 renewables target should be 40%.

Ukraine’s Minister of Energy German Galushchenko has described the transition to renewables as a pillar of the decarbonization of the country.

The UkraineInvest, the country’s financial agency, analyses indicate Ukraine’s potential for wind and solar capacity at 320 gigawatts (GW) and 70 GW, respectively.  The World Bank evaluated the renewables obtainable capacity in Crimea at 250 GW.

The hic is that the southern and southwestern parts of the country, zones largely under Russian control, make up 47% of areas with the best potential for wind and solar energy.

Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Energy Yaroslav Demchenkov stated “Ukraine can become a hub for Europe’s sustainable energy, and we are setting such ambitious goals as part of our energy sector recovery programs.”

The Ukrainian solar potential is exceptional in the southern cities of Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv, Odesa and Khersonwhich which receive the same degree of sunshine as Italy.

On the micro-scale, war just-in-time clean energy solutions are presently showing the way to long-term reconstruction.

Spectacularly remarkable, one year after the small hospital in Horenka was totally destroyed, the hospital has been rebuilt with solar panels powering a heat pump to furnish all energy needs.  This resulted in an 80% reduction in heating costs!

Two other hospitals and a school in Irpine are the object of similar projects.

And Ukraine’s Solar Association with the support of environmental NGOs like Ecoclub, are furnishing solar and energy storage combinations to hospitals.  Ecoclub was founded by university students.

To be sure, rooftop solar has been mushrooming around the country for hospitals, schools, police stations, residences and other buildings to provide power where there wasn’t any or insufficient capacity.

Other clean energy applications include a water company using renewables to keep pumping; and ad-hoc indispensable solar power improvisations to charge phones and access the internet for civilians and soldiers.

The remaining big question is that of the nuclear energy role since this source provided a little over half of pre-war power.  That is, while reconstruction requires swift massive cost-effective and non-centralized distribution solutions, new and repaired nuclear power facilities necessitate distribution centralization; are expensive; and construction is slow.

Moreover, nuclear construction projects rarely meet cost and timeline goals.  And there remains longstanding public social acceptability concerns for nuclear waste and exposure to acts of terrorism.

Andriy Konechenkov calls for the phasing out of nuclear power sources. Safe nuclear decommissioning backed by renewables coupled with energy storage may make more sense.

Buildings and energy efficiency

Russia has been destroying buildings, residential and commercial, at random.

Ukraine reconstruction requirements opens up opportunities to leapfrog from energy inefficient pre-war buildings to energy efficient ones.

Prior to the war, Ukraine had little ambitions to be energy efficient and develop sustainable urban environments.  The buildings were poorly insulated.  Air pollution levels were high, as measured by the World Health Organization.

With many entire cities needing to be rebuilt and damaged beyond repair buildings across the country, the moment is now to rethink urban planning and energy efficient buildings.

With home-grown reconstruction plans in mind, the Ro3kvit Urban Coalition for Ukraine is working on building new districts based on environmental principles.  This includes working with Horizon Europe on climate neutrality goals, compliant with the European Green Deal.  The Coalition frames of reference encompass a circular economy, where the rubble becomes major components of the reconstruction.

As much as 90% of the debris can be used for reconstruction, including steel, cement and rocks.

The Ro3kvit circular economy approach takes into account that half of building emissions occur during the construction process and the manufacturing of building components.

Over and above these considerations, Ro3Kvit integrates the basics, such as decontaminating soil and the treatment of waste and water.  There is much to do in this regard.

To boot, reconstruction with materials made in Ukraine is favoured to generate 100,000 jobs, US$5.6 billion in salaries and US$4.4 billion in tax revenues.

Having inclusivity objectives, Ro3kvit plans on having webinar training to encourage refugees to rejoin into the workforce in support of reconstruction.

To adopt all solutions to a Ukraine-specific context, the Berlin-based publisher, DOM, has launched a series of 12 titles on the Histories of Ukraine Architecture to be published from start to finish over 2023.  The series will provide descriptions and full-colour illustrations of Ukraine architecture over the last 100 years.  It will be available in several languages, such that expertise input from around the world can contribute to reconstruction projects.

Especially important is to safeguard all original features of damaged heritage buildings, integral components of the Ukrainian identity.  Many of these buildings are in Odessa.  UNESCO has taken upon itself to register 260 heritage sites thus far that have been afflicted.  UNESCO has resorted to satellite images to record incidents, but these images don’t capture all the details.

A preliminary estimation of the infrastructure reconstruction costs is US$48 to US$53 billion.

To achieve all buildings reconstruction ends,  the Ro3kvit New European Bauhaus (NEB) has partners in education, heritage, arts, design, architecture, and other fields.

Drones for greener agriculture

For military purposes, Ukraine has developed comprehensive drone capabilities for designing and manufacturing them across the country in makeshift workshops/garages.  This is in addition to buying drones from elsewhere.

On a per capita basis, more than any other country Ukraine, probably has the most drone-related savvy in aerospace engineering, conception at-large, manufacturing, precision operation and global supply chain integration.

These proficiencies can be applied to using drones for agriculture for the deployment of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, with precision detection of where, and in what quantities, these products are needed, while spraying in accordance with such data.

This can be done at a 30% to 50% of the cost of traditional agricultural techniques, with equivalent crop results, while eliminating the need for heavy equipment that compact soil under their weight and especially damage farmland when wet.  Such applications eliminate the need for fossil fuels for tractors and dust aircraft.

Since Ukraine is an important global breadbasket, representing world supplies for 10% of wheat; 15% of corn; 13% of barely; and 50% of sunflower oil, Ukraine will eventually offer the world awesome worldwide greener agriculture practices and equipment.

Technologically advanced products: Green steelmaking

Ukraine has the capability to migrate from raw materials extraction to the production of technologically advanced products.

Among the first targets for green technological leadership is the iron and steel sector which produces 15% of Ukraine’s emissions and constitutes 10% of its GDP.

Rostyslav Shurma, a deputy in the office of President Zelensky, declared that Ukraine intends to construct a 50 million tonne green steel industry that uses electric arc furnaces, rather than the traditional steelmaking process with blast furnaces fired up with coke and coal.  The country’s solar, wind, nuclear and hydro sectors will be called upon to fabricate green hydrogen to decarbonize this hard to decarbonize steel sector.

Steelmaking is just one more example of technological leadership to be applied to Ukraine’s green reconstruction.

Other green economy opportunities

Awaiting to be tapped for the green economy, Ukraine has lithium, cobalt, titanium deposits.

Decentralized industrial parks could also play a role in speeding up reconstruction.

International support

All reconstruction costs included, the World Bank suggested the total will be around US$411 billion.  The U.S. has pledged US$64.3 billion, the European Union US$54.5 billion from 2024 to 2027 and the U.K, US$3 billion.

Leading up to Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, June 21-22, 2023, President Volodymyr Zelensky divulged his country seeks US$40 billion for the first phase of its ‘Green Marshal Plan.”  This conference brought together 1000 public and private leaders with strong engagements to see Ukraine become a major diversified advanced global player.

International support for clean energy and efficient buildings are already integrated into Ukraine reconstruction plans.

With respect to the U.S., the U.S., Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, at the Ukraine Recovery Conference, announced the US will provide a further US$1.3 billion in aid, that includes US$520m to overhaul Ukraine’s energy grid.

In March 2023, the International Monetary Fund expanded its support for Ukraine to the tune of US$15.6 billion.  Among a host of conditions, are those of addressing energy vulnerabilities.

The largest public bank in the world, the European Investment Bank, has promised US$4 billion for reconstruction with the proviso that 50% of this support go towards energy efficient buildings including improving heating and insulation.

Both the European Investment Bank and the European Multilateral Development Bank have made climate considerations mandatory for reconstruction loans.

In parallel, more than 400 businesses from 38 countries have signed the Ukraine Business Compact to rebuild the Ukraine economy.  To leverage private investment, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis, the President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Werner Hoyer, the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Odile Renaud-Basso, and the Managing Director of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Makhtar Diop, signed agreements for over US$870 million. The agreements, are supported by the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus, the financing arm of NDICI-Global Europe.

Other forms of European support are as follows:

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck has offered US$1.1 million for rooftop solar for hospitals.

The European Union has pledged the deployment of thousands of solar panels to cover 11,000 square metres of roofs of public buildings.

Finally, the European Commission has a US$7.6 million plan to support Ro3kvit to train mayors and urban planners.

Europe abruptly awakened

Europe is entirely dependent on imports for its fossil fuel supplies.

The war has suddenly awakened Europe from its complacent addiction to Russian imports.

Though the European energy crisis just-in-time solutions focus on fossil fuel substitutes for Russian energy supplies, the medium-term aim is to become energy independent by 2027.

Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, summed things up by suggesting that the Russian invasion has sped up the transition.

With the EU goal to terminate Russian fossil fuel imports and Russian pipelines crisscrossing Ukraine, there is a win-win moment at hand.

Ukraine admission to the EU

An additional bonus, reconstruction with decentralized renewable energy sources offers Ukraine extra points to comply with the European Union decarbonization exigencies for joining the EU.   This complements the process already begun to admit Ukraine in the EU.  Indeed, Ukraine is well-advanced on its intentions to become the European hub for decarbonization with cross Europe green interconnections.

The Takeaway

Lest we not forget that the human toll is high.

Difficult to accurately report on casualties.  Over 354,000 Ukrainian and Russian soldiers, and 23,000 Ukrainian civilians, have been killed or injured since the start of the war.

That’s in addition to many having long-lasting or permanent disabilities and the more than 7.8 million who have fled the country, some of whom may want to come back for the reconstruction.

Plus exceeding 5.3 million have been internally displaced and 17.6 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Evidently, the reconstruction gamechanger plan will have to be implemented at lightning speed. Damaged or destroyed are in excess of 154,000 housing units, 3,100 educational buildings and more than 1,200 healthcare facilities.

Too great to be imaginable, the healing and rebuilding, together, signify a new energy portrait.

At the Ukraine Recovery Conference, President Volodymyr Zelensky declared “each strike on our energy facilities ends the era of fossil fuel dominance and a world over-dependent on one supplier, Russia”.  He added that Ukraine intends to be a world leader in green energy, lithium supplies and metallurgy.

Too at the London conference, U.K Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, confirmed his belief in Ukraine leadership in the green transition stating Ukraine embodies “a top-five exporter of iron ore and steel, a leader in energy – pushing forward renewables, hydrogen and electric vehicles – and a startup nation […] with a thriving tech sector, which actually had a record year in 2022.”

International assistance from public, financial and private sectors to achieve Ukrainian green transition global leadership is in-hand, with more to come.

Most important, the ongoing zeal and and multidisciplinary expertise being dedicated by the Ukrainian people and friends for a green reconstruction are admirable against the backdrop a horrific military conflict.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here