Standing next to Phil Coupe's Ford F-150 Lightning electric truck are Iryna Zolotoverkha, head of Ukraine’s National Energy & Utilities Regulatory Commission (NEURC), Oleksandr Mykhailovsky, head of NEURC’s Division of Alternative & Renewable Electricity, translator Olga Shostachuk and Vlad Maksakov, State Expert of Renewable Energy at Ukraine’s Energy Ministry. Behind everyone is UNE’s solar-powered Marine Science Center. Iryna and Olga then test drove Phil's Ford Lightning!
From our bird's-eye view of the renewable energy industry, we often see positive developments for humanity before they become common knowledge. The purpose of our Rational Cause for Optimism column is to highlight the clean energy innovations and sustainability actions that are legitimate cause for optimism despite the very real threats to people and the environment posed by climate damage.
by ReVision Energy co-founder Phil Coupe
When a Ukrainian energy delegation recently visited Maine, they brought a powerful message about the multiple benefits of solar, heat pumps, and battery storage: decentralized clean energy systems are much more resilient than fossil fuel power plants.
“As Russia continues to attack our utility grid nationwide, we have learned that solar arrays are incredibly difficult for them to knock out because they are dispersed everywhere rather than in one centralized location,” said Vladyslav “Vlad” Maksakov, State Expert of Renewable Energy at Ukraine’s Energy Ministry.
Awning mount at the UNE Biddeford campus. During a May tour of the University of New England’s Biddeford campus with the Rotary Club of Biddeford and local business and community leaders (including myself), Maksakov applauded the school’s ongoing clean energy investments, noting that his Energy Ministry has set an ambitious goal for Ukraine to derive at least 50% of its total electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. Today Ukraine derives roughly 25% of its energy from renewable resources.
As he and his Energy Ministry colleagues explored multiple buildings on the UNE campus with rooftop solar arrays, Maksakov said the solar energy systems installed thus far in Ukraine have played a crucial role helping to keep the lights on during Russia’s relentless bomb, missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian targets.
Since Russia began its unprovoked military invasion in February 2022, Ukraine’s Energy Ministry has kicked its renewable energy initiatives into overdrive in an effort to make critical infrastructure as resilient as possible. For example, at a small hospital in the Kyiv suburb of Horenka, workers installed a rooftop solar array along with battery storage and an air source heat pump. The solar panels provide about 50% of the facility’s power when the utility grid is operational, and when the grid gets knocked out, the combination of solar, storage and heat pump can keep the facility operational.
As Ukraine valiantly fights for its independence, western Europe is working frantically to accelerate the transition to renewable energy in the face of deep cuts in Russian oil and gas supplies to NATO bloc countries like Germany and Denmark. German heat pump installations leaped by 53% in 2022 as the country seeks to surpass 500,000 units installed by 2024.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a global acceleration away from fossil fuels, unleashing $1.4 trillion in clean energy investments in 2022. This is the first time in history that global clean energy investments have matched investment in fossil fuel projects.
Solar and EV Chargers at UNE's Portland campus. Despite the extraordinary challenges they are facing at home, the Ukrainian energy delegation seemed full of hope and cautious optimism about the future as they visited multiple clean energy projects in southern Maine last month.
“We know we can win this war,” said Maksakov, pointing out the proven strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people during the past 15 months of attacks on their country. “We are going to continue to fortify our energy system with the type of renewable energy we see all around us here in Maine and in the long run we will be stronger than the Russians and all their oil and gas.”
Want to help? When I asked Vlad about the best way for people to support Ukraine, he said donations should be made to: https://leleka.care/donate