US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed again on Tuesday to “work tirelessly with the G7 and other partners to repair, replace, and defend Ukraine’s energy infrastructure” as it faces a tough winter of Russian attacks.
But that effort will not come without challenges.
An initial tranche of US electrical equipment, which a US official told CNN included big items like circuit breakers, relays, disconnectors, arrived in Ukraine more than a week ago — part of a multimillion dollar pledge by the Biden administration to help to support Ukraine’s electrical system.
However, as the US and its partners work to try to supply the capital of Kyiv with the supplies it needs to keep the electricity and heat on this winter, they have had to contend with worldwide supply chain issues, the US official said.
There is a global effort to try to deal with this, the official explained, and the US is working with the private sector to try to narrow the gap in equipment, but with the existing supply chain issues, there is not as much extra supply.
Other challenges: Some of the “bigger ticket” items that are used in the United States are not compatible in Ukraine, as they are designed to work on different frequency grids, the official told CNN.
The US hopes that the provision of air defense systems will help counter the barrage of Russian attacks on Ukrainian critical infrastructure, so that the equipment provided by the US and partners is not destroyed.
By attacking the infrastructure, the Russians have made defense and recovery of the grid much more complicated, the official explained, because there are so many more places the system can go down than if they were to attack a power plant.
In the short term, the US is trying to locate items the Ukrainians have prioritized, such as large gas generators. These generators would not be used to power individual homes, the US official said, but rather would be used to keep critical utilities such as water and heat on even if the electricity is down.
The official explained that even when the electrical grid is repaired, it cannot immediately be run on full capacity or it risks blowing out, so Ukrainian officials likely will need to keep rolling blackouts until they can ensure the patched electrical grid can sustain itself, the official said.