'I don't know how we'll survive this winter': Ukraine recovery to focus on energy

'I don't know how we'll survive this winter': Ukraine recovery to focus on energy

The second and final day of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin concluded with a pledge to support Ukraine's critical infrastructure ahead of a cold winter.

During his speech and at a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the first day of the conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to his Western counterparts to help Ukraine rebuild and decentralise its energy infrastructure.

Increased Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy networks and power plants have forced the government to introduce rolling blackouts in all major cities for several hours a day and reports have been published warning about Ukrainians being forced to freeze in the winter due to a lack of electricity.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Center for Civil Liberties leader Oleksandra Matviichuk expressed her fear of the coming winter. "I really don't know how we'll survive this winter. Winter in Ukraine is very cold, and we won't have any heating, light, electricity, no internet connection, no water," she said, blaming the delay of air defence systems by Ukraine's Western partners.

“The UN is already helping Ukraine prepare for the winter,” said Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“This includes energy systems, power supplies, and possibly installing generators in schools to compensate for the lack of electricity. The UNDP, supported by Japan and other international partners, has brought in transformers to reconnect over half a million Ukrainians, addressing one of the greatest challenges for Ukraine due to the deliberate destruction of its energy infrastructure. Access to electricity is crucial for survival, especially during winter”, he added.

Focus on renewable energy

The World Bank has committed at least €460 billion to aid Ukraine's reconstruction efforts.

Anna Bjerde, Chief Operating Officer of the World Bank, who oversees international financial assistance and advises Ukraine on post-war recovery, emphasised Ukraine's significant potential in renewable energy sources.

"We've gathered insights from Ukrainian firms on their challenges, guiding our policy discussions with the government and shaping our funding strategies to effectively support these companies," she explained.

"Renewable energy, highlighted at the conference, is a primary focus given Ukraine's potential in this sector and discussions on hydrogen. While addressing the immediate energy crisis is crucial ahead of winter, we also recognise the long-term advantages of developing renewable energy, especially for industries striving to decarbonise," Bjerde concluded.

Over 110 agreements signed

At the Recovery Conference, Ukraine has signed 110 international agreements, contracts, and memorandums, reflecting strong global interest in investing in the country. The conference resulted in commitments and aid exceeding €16 billion, including a €1.4 billion investment component under the Ukraine Facility, an €767 million energy assistance package from the US, and a €7 billion SME Resilience Alliance for Ukraine.

Additional agreements included over €700 million for the Skills Alliance program, €32 million for humanitarian demining, €560 million from 14 agreements with German and international partners, and over €320 million in risk insurance agreements.

Additionally, Germany has announced an additional 68 Patriot missiles for Ukraine, following the 32 missiles already delivered in the past two days, as announced by German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius on 11 June at a joint press conference with the Ukrainian President in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Preparation for the peace summit in Switzerland

The Ukraine Recovery Conference was held a couple of days before the highly-anticipated peace summit in Switzerland from 15 to 16 June. Russia was not invited.

At a joint press conference with President Zelenskyy at the conference, German Chancellor called the upcoming summit in Switzerland a “next step, but not the last one” and compared it to "a plant that one has to water".

With the summit, Ukraine is aiming to garner support for Zelenskyy's ten-point peace plan, focusing on key agenda points despite not all being addressed. Additionally, the event with representatives from nearly 90 countries and organisations presents a crucial opportunity to demonstrate broad international backing for Ukraine, including from non-Western nations, despite notable absences like China.