Against Backdrop of War, Rolling Blackouts and Internet Outages, Ukraine Is Trying to Digitize Everything

“The Government needs to become as flexible and mobile as an IT company, to automate all functions and services,… reduce 60% of officials, introduce large-scale privatization and outsourcing of government functions”: Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation 

Ukraine may be suffering a rising wave of rolling power blackouts and internet outages as the proxy war between Russia and NATO intensifies, but that doesn’t seem to have crimped the Zelensky government’s ambitions to transform the country into a digital wonderland. In the past week alone, Ukraine’s central bank unveiled plans for a digital E-hryvnia and Kyiv signed a digital trade agreement (yep, they do exist) with the United Kingdom.

The newly signed “DTA” is ostensibly aimed at helping the Ukrainian economy recover from its current malaise while also boosting both countries’ digital output. And guess what it includes? A provision for collaborating on digital identity. From a UK government press release:

“[T]there is a critical need for people to be able to use digital solutions to prove they are who they say they are, despite the loss of critical documentation or displacement across borders. The agreement provides a framework for the UK and Ukraine to cooperate to promote compatibility between their respective digital identity systems to help address this.”

While it is true that identifying citizens in the midst of war is both a challenging and vital task, digital identity is an area in which Ukraine already excels. In fact, as the digital rights group Reclaim the Net notes, it has a great deal to teach the UK on the matter:

Ukraine’s highly-sophisticated digital ID, Diia, is used to grant the public access to most government services online. It has nine digital credentials: the ID card, the identity provider (IDP) certificate for network access, birth certificate, passport, driving license, tax number, student card, and vehicle registration certificate.

Diia was first launched in February 2020 by the Ministry of Digital Transformation, which itself was created in late 2019. The platform is partly funded by the European Union’s eu4digital initiative, which in its own words “aims to extend the benefits of the European Union’s Digital Single Market to the Eastern Partner States, channelling EU support to develop the potential of the digital economy and society, in order to bring economic growth, generate more jobs, improve people’s lives and businesses.”

The EU’s support of Ukraine’s digital transformation is also a means of bringing Ukraine closer to the EU Digital Single Market, according to Ambassador Matti Maasikas, the head of delegation of the European Union to Ukraine. The ultimate goal of Diia, which means “action” in Ukrainian, is to digitize and automate all government services as part of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s “State in a Smartphone” concept.

“For citizens, the government should be just a service – simple, but more notably comprehensible,” Mr. Zelenskyy said at the beginning of the Diia presentation. “In general, our goal is to make sure that all relations with the state can be carried out with the help of a regular smartphone and the Internet. In particular, voting. This is our dream, and we will make it real during presidential, parliamentary or local elections. It is a challenge. Ambitious yet achievable.”

This coming from a man who has banned the activities of most of the country’s opposition parties and led an all-out assault on workers’ rights.

War as a Catalyst

Ukraine’s digitization of government services predates the conflict with Russia, but in the eternal spirit of never letting a good crisis go to waste it has been significantly expanded and accelerated in the succeeding months. In early March, Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the IMF, and Oleg Ustenko, an economic advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, floated the idea of creating a universal basic income, paid for with the billions of euros of frozen Russian assets.

While the idea didn’t quite take off, due largely to fears about the potential blow back from expropriating Russian funds, Ukraine has experimented with digital financial handouts. On March 6, Ukraine PM Denis Shmyhal announced a “War-Time Economy” with a one-off payment of 6500 UAH (roughly $200) to employed, self employed, and other entrepreneurs who lost employment in some of the worst effected areas of hostilities. Given how desperate people in the country are, the offer of free government assistance is particularly alluring. Registration for the funds is only possible through the Diia app.

As Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation and Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov told participants of the 2021 edition of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders program, the government’s goal is to create a digital ID system that within three years would make Ukraine the most convenient State in the world by operating like a digital service provider. “We are shaping a vision of a post-war Government,” he said. And in that vision, government will be digitized, privatized, automated and outsourced:

The Government needs to become as flexible and mobile as an IT company, to automate all functions and services, significantly change the structure, reduce 60% of officials, introduce large-scale privatization and outsourcing of government functions. Even in the customs. Only such a Government will be able to bring about quick and bold reforms to rebuild the country and ensure rapid development.

According to a September 2022 article for the IT solutions-for-development website, ICT works, by Washington-based Troy Etulain, a former adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure, the popularity of Diia is exploding at the same time that Kiev’s ambitions for the platform continue to grow:

In 2021 there were 12 million Diia users. By August 2022, the number had grown to 18 million, with 50,000-70,000 users joining daily. Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation (and friend of Zelensky) Mykhailo Fedorov has many remaining ambitions for Diia, his signature achievement…

Diia is quickly expanding its services. In August, Diia launched a service for people to register property damaged or lost due to Russian aggression in Ukraine, including as far back as 2014, when Russian began occupying Crimea. While citizens can apply now, a commission will be formed at a later date to assess damage claims. Soon the government will use it to make pension payments.

Minister Fedorov has the noble ambition of tackling petty corruption by moving small official transactions, such as applying for a building permit or obtaining any kind of license, to Diia as well. And in August, he announced integration of Diia with Poland’s myObywatel digital governance platform.

Next Up: A Ukranian CBDC

Etulain, who according to his own bio “has experience designing and implementing” media and technology development programs, “including strategies for the UN and USAID”, highlighted one of the next key steps in Ukraine’s digital transformation (which should come as no surprise to NC readers): establishing a central bank digital currency (CBDC). As I have contended in previous articles as well as in my book Scanned, a central bank digital currency would be all but impossible to pull off without first installing a centrally controlled digital identity system. Which, as luck would have it, Ukraine already has. Back to Etulain:

Each digital hryvnia would have its own unique identification number, just as each physical US dollar has a unique serial number and can be tracked along its journey through transaction after transaction. This would help tremendously with tracking how reconstruction funds were spent. And with increased international trust will come increased support.

The idea of a national digital currency (also called a central bank digital currency, or CBDC) is not new. The US Federal Reserve is considering a digital dollar. And in 2021 Ukraine’s friends across the Black Sea in Georgia launched their own digital currency, in large part to stem corruption (and to allow enable instant payments and, eventually, smart contracts). And in 2020 the National Bank of Ukraine considered the idea.

Obviously digitizing payments across the entire reconstruction value chain will make things more efficient, particularly if integrated with a digital hryvnia. And, in addition to digital currencies’ promise to lower the cost of capital (printing money, stocking ATMs, transporting it in bulletproof vehicles), just imagine the challenging, expensive logistics of providing cash in areas with decimated infrastructure.

A Digital Economy Without Electricity

But what about the logistics of running an increasingly digitized society, government and economy in a country with a decimated electrical infrastructure? As NC readers well know, the Russian army has spent the past couple of months executing a surgical destruction of Ukraine’s electrical grid. According to John Helmer, Russia’s main goal is to hamper Ukraine’s ability to transport (as opposed to producing) electricity. And as Yves noted in her Nov 3. piece, Has Russia Already Pwnd Ukraine?, it would seem that “the most efficient way for Ukraine to restore the grid (and remember no rebuild will be terribly efficient) would be to get the needed equipment from Russia.”

That ain’t gonna happen, at least not any time soon. In the meantime, Ukraine is having to deal with increasingly widespread rolling blackouts. As Aljazeera reported a few days ago, even if power is restored in a local area, it is quickly disrupted again by Russian cruise missile attacks:

Engineers work double or triple shifts to repair or replace fried circuits and blackened transformers. After a few days, the power is fixed.

Then, Russia does it again.

Yet ironically, even as Russia escalates its attacks on Ukraine’s electricity grid, plunging huge swathes of the country into darkness, the mission to digitize Ukraine’s economy is, if anything, intensifying. Last week, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) revealed its draft concept for developing a CBDC known as the digital hryvnia or the e-hryvnia.

“The development and implementation of the e-hryvnia can be the next step in the evolution of the payment infrastructure of Ukraine, advance the digitalization of the economy, further promote cashless settlements and reduce their price, improve transparency of settlements, and boost overall confidence in the national currency. ” said Oleksiy Shaban, Deputy Chairman of the NBU.

The NBU outlined three possible forms the CBDC might take:

  • “For retail non-cash payments with the possible functionality of programmed [or programmable] money.”
  • In the circulation of digital assets. Under this option, the e-hyrvnia “can become one of the key elements of qualitative infrastructure development for the virtual assets market in Ukraine.”
  • To facilitate cross-border payments.

It is far from clear how long it may take for the NBU to launch an e-hyrvnia. It is one thing to launch a draft proof of concept; it’s quite another to actually launch a CBDC that is: a) functional; and b) widely adopted. As readers may recall, the first CBDC to go fully live in a largish economy, Nigeria’s e-Naira, has so far been a damp squib.

As with digital identity, CBDCs could offer a range of public benefits, including ease and convenience of use as well the possibility of targeting government benefits more precisely. And governments can come up with myriad pretexts for implementing one, from a public health crisis to climate change, to cyber security, to supplementing a CBDC.

But in this blogger’s humble opinion those benefits are significantly outweighed by the potential costs, risks and pitfalls. They include the total loss of privacy and anonymity in our payment behavior. As the DC-based blogger and analyst NS Lyons warns, CBDCs, “if not deliberately and carefully constrained in advance by law,… have the potential to become even more than a technocratic central planner’s dream. They could represent the single greatest expansion of totalitarian power in history.”

While most of the talk, at least in public, is about CBDCs supplementing, as opposed to supplanting, cash, the mid to long-term goal is to drive the final nail in cash’s coffin, as Etulain candidly admits:

“The aim here is also behavior change all the way down to the most remote village, to lay a foundation that over the long term moves the society and economy towards the benefits of a cashless economy.”

Unprecedented Power

Like CBDCs, digital identity schemes offer gains in efficiency, transparency and convenience but they also have the potential to grant governments and corporations unprecedented power to coerce or incentivize changes in human behavior while at the same time eroding individual agency and autonomy. Fedorov himself believes that if you offer people an overwhelming amount of convenience that is accompanied by strong cybersecurity, they will have no choice but to trust the technology.

There is an ominous air of TINA (Margaret Thatcher’s “there is no alternative”) to the rapidly accelerating developments around digital identity and CBDCs, both in Ukraine and around the world. As mentioned at the start of this article, the governments of Ukraine and the UK have agreed to collaborate on digital identity, just as the UK has already done with Singapore. That agreement follows a similar collaboration on digital ID between Ukraine and Estonia, which has also digitized many of its government services.

In the EU, the European Council has just adopted a common position on proposed legislation regarding the framework for a European digital identity (eID). Russia is also planning to roll out a digital ID and is scheduled to pilot a digital rouble next year. Meanwhile, in the US ten advocacy organizations, including the Better Identity Coalition, have called on Congress to pass the Improving Digital Identity Act of 2022, which mandates the government to develop federal digital ID infrastructure. All of this is taking place with virtually no public awareness let alone input.



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  1. Stephen

    Maybe they see this as their equivalent of Britain’s 1942 Beveridge Report that paved the way for the welfare state. It was issued only just as things were slowly turning around after El Alamein but otherwise after a period of pretty much one British military disaster after another.

    Hard to see how the Ukrainian regime turns things around now though.

    More ominously and probably a better analogy: I read IBM and the Holocaust many years ago. The whole evil of that would not have been possible, or at least would not have been so complete and clinical, in the absence of punch cards and Hollerith counting machines. These were used to “process” populations and enable targeted genocide. Seems fitting that the Ukrainian regime is at the forefront of equivalent tech today. Also that the west wants it.

    1. jsn

      I figure it’s just the NSA/CIA developing it’s digital currency suite to bundle and package with the next color revolution, or even better, domestic collapse.

      How better to test digital social control in a collapsing state?

      It’ll be quite useful in the coming years.

  2. Aaron

    No mention in the article of the word ‘privatization’ as deputy prime minister Fedorov mentions in his quoted outline of the vision.
    Here comes more corporatocracy, oh boy! Everyone loves some good privatization of essential government services /s

    1. Polar Socialist

      Come to think of it, Ukraine already did away with political rights and labor rights, so this is kinda on par if they really are attempting to create a neoliberal paradise.

  3. Polar Socialist

    I guess at this point all Ukraine has left is virtual economy, so why not embrace it wholeheartedly.

  4. semper loquitur

    “to create a digital ID system that within three years would make Ukraine the most convenient State in the world by operating like a digital service provider”

    Ah, convenience, the paving stone of choice for the Highway to Hell. You know who else will find it convenient? State sponsored hackers working for, say, the Russian Ministry of Defense. Talk about bricking, imagine when your money doesn’t work anymore on a national scale, imagine when nobody’s money works anymore, imagine when none of the following work anymore:

    “the ID card, the identity provider (IDP) certificate for network access, birth certificate, passport, driving license, tax number, student card, and vehicle registration certificate”

    Also, you have to love the statement that all this will lead to “less expensive” cashless transactions. Thanks! A spoonful of sugar to make the tyranny go down easier. You know how much it costs me to make a cash transaction? Less than a calorie of energy, I’d wager, to grab my wallet and hand out 20$…

    1. Mikel

      Every transaction a.person makes is a threat to their personal and financial security with that kind of ID.

      1. semper loquitur

        Let’s take the scenario even further. Imagine a well orchestrated attack against not only digital ID’s but “smart” vehicles as well. Bricking all the cabs in Manhattan, for example. No doubt these “services” will be tightly centralized in either state or corporate hands. With passwords like “password” or something similar. And probably with insufficient backup because profitability. All it takes is one or two chinks in the armor and you hit flesh. As I’m sure has been discussed around here before, it’s a lot cheaper to hire a bunch of pimply hacker-nerds than to field an army. Imagine the chaos. It would be on the order of a nationwide natural disaster, a virtual super-volcano eruption.

  5. Adam1

    “…just imagine the challenging, expensive logistics of providing cash in areas with decimated infrastructure.”

    I had to laugh at this. Yes you need cleared roads and intact bridges to move trucks of money around, but that all needs to exist as well for the digital world too if your infrastructure is seriously damaged. If you are so reliant on digital not only do you need to role trucks to fix the power, but that data has to cross some kind of communications channel. Whether it’s copper of fiber; splicing a break is no simple task as a bad splice can degrade the data transmittal or make the splice worthless. Even where your last mile of data is mobile, the back end somewhere is going to hit a copper or fiber network. If you are stretched for manpower being reliant on the digital world at the community/citizen level is actually a resource tax not a benefit.

    1. elkern

      I’ll bet you a virtual bottle of Scotch that Starlink (or some other Musky venture) introduces an Interplanetary Digital Currency in the next year or so…

  6. The Rev Kev

    The only real explanation for this going ahead is somebody is making bank from this initiative. Not only local “partners” in the Ukraine but also people with the right connections overseas. The fact that the country is being bombed back to the 19th century is irrelevant in terms of the cash flows. Saw something similar about twenty years ago. When the Coalition went into Iraq to occupy it, they were determined to make it into their own image. So this young kid virtually just out of college was put in charge of the Iraq Stock Market with the brief to totally digitalise it. And it was decided that all the Iraqi security forces that had been recruited would receive a plastic card and that they would use to withdraw their pay from an ATM which would help the Coalition Provisional Authority keep track of where all the money was going.

    There was just one problem which I bet you can guess at. The Coalition had destroyed the Iraqi electrical grid in the invasion and not just the transmission gear but the generating plants themselves. Power was at best intermittent and frustrated all plans to digitalise the Iraqi economy. American corporations were given massive lucrative contracts to rebuild the electrical system just never got around to finishing that work and to this day Iraq has problems with their electrical grid. So do not be surprised if the Ukraine still dos not get its grid properly running even ten years from now thus sabotaging all these digitizing efforts.

    1. vao

      somebody is making bank from this initiative

      One should also keep in mind that Ukrainian IT specialists are world-class (just like the Russian ones). A surprising proportion of malware toolkits actually originate from Ukraine. It is unfortunate that those top-notch programmers cannot find any well-paid occupation in their own country other than developing nasty applications such as ransomware.

      So Ukraine wants to set up a completely computerized government based on a digital id? And link it to the Estonian, Polish and British schemes? Gangs vacuuming bitcoin-exchanges and absconding with billions of virtual money made for entertaining news, but a similar feat occuring in a real economy will not be so funny.

    2. Doly Garcia

      Looks like it isn’t the first time that someone is trying this playbook, then. War as an opportunity for somebody to test new digital tech, even when it makes precisely zero sense to develop new digital tech in a war-torn country that is having its electrical grid attacked, because nothing digital works without electricity.

      Does the USA have no way to stop funding all the sharks out there with the excuse of helping some war-torn country? I’m beginning to think that the only issues with the movie “Lord of War” are that (a) it was more of a documentary than I like and (b) it still was too discreet about some of the dealings that are actually happening.

  7. Mikel

    Here’s what stands out:

    This is how Ukraine’s digital ID is decribed:
    “the ID card, the identity provider (IDP) certificate for network access, birth certificate, passport, driving license, tax number, student card, and vehicle registration certificate.”

    Then there is mumbo jumbo qbout how it will help “governments” provide services. But this sentence stands out:
    “And in that vision, government will be predominantly digitized, privatized, automated and outsourced….”

    That’s not “government.”

    It would be funny if it wasn’t horrifying, evil, and stupid all wrapped up in one.

    So the “vision” is global fascism – where fools think every transaction requires some business to have all of that info about you.

    I like the world where getting a pait of shoes doesn’t require access to my passport and vehicle registration.

    But the most obvious thing is that it pribably be the set up for the biggest financial heist in the history of humanity.

  8. timbers

    Digitize everything. Would this make it easier for rats fleeing a sinking ship to raid the vaults on their wat out?

  9. chuck roast

    The Shock Doctrine in action. It has been said that when the tide goes out you see who has been swimming naked. More like, when the tide goes out the scum shows up. A shame to see Simon Johnson associated with this scam…which leads directly to his inclusion in the Roast Hall Of Shame.

  10. New reader

    Are we still pretending this war is real? There are more pictures of the civil war than pictures of this war. Weird right? Everyone has a smart phone but no one wants to take a selfie in front of the 10,000 reported burned out tanks littering the battlefield. Maybe the Ukraine without electricity is jamming phone calls out of the country. Maybe the Russians who started the war in February were just waiting for the ground to freeze for the next 10 months. Of course it couldn’t be fake. The war started the day the covid narrative died but they can’t be related at all. They can’t be pretending to be at war while implementing everything they tried to do with covid. Russia and the MSM are so trustworthy we don’t even need videos to verify what a couple of paragraphs say.

      1. New reader

        Of course you knowing nothing about me wouldn’t preclude such good advice now would it? Where would you suggest I go?

        1. jsn

          Your comment told me a great deal about you.

          You could keep up with the postings and links on the war here, for instance.

          1. New reader

            Yours did too. An out of the gate ad hominem attack towards a person you know nothing about. By the way, whenever I read whatever it is you think you know will the war still be fake? Will we ever see a video? Would you like to try a serious rebuttal? Or do you believe the war is fake as well and just like to create straw man arguments?

            1. jsn

              “Are we still pretending this war is real?”, appears to be the main content of your initial post.

              Strong claims require strong evidence. Of course it’s irresponsible to not speculate, but there are plenty of links around here to pretty well vetted sources who take the war to be real. Claiming we’ve all fallen for a hoax is a fairly strong claim. Maybe I missed your point, I don’t really follow the subsequent speculations in that comment.

              Maybe you’re right and most of the commenters here are dupes. I’m here because since about 2008 I’ve found the postings and discussions here to have strong predictive power about what’s really coming down the pike. Past performance is no guarantee of future success, but that’s life.

              1. New reader

                Absolutely, JSN and I agree with the quality of the posts on this website as well. I however don’t care about well vetted sources. That is the logical fallacy of appealing to authority. I would do better with 1,000’s and 1,000’s of hours of video evidence. (Almost something like everyone in the world had a smartphone in their pocket or something) You are correct strong claims require strong evidence. How am I supposed to believe that the Russian army in the year 2022 can’t move faster through the Ukraine than Genghis Khan did on horseback in the year 1240? I don’t remember the Poles creating a digital currency when Hitler invaded in 1939 because they were fighting against a real invasion. If the ground is so hotly contested in Ukraine as to believe the Russian army can’t gain ground then where are the bodies? Where are the last videos of dying Ukrainians to their 6 year old sons at home? Obviously it’s impossible to disprove a negative so the burden of proof lays on the people who claim the war is real. That burden has not been met yet.

                1. José Freitas

                  There is PLENTY of video, you just need to go look for it, for example on both Ukrainian and Russian telegram channels. Those I follow upload literally HUNDREDS of videos a day (it’s hard to follow even).

                  1. New reader

                    There is nothing in those videos to substantiate the hugely exaggerated number of war dead that both sides are claiming. Remember the “highway of death” in Iraq with all those burned out trucks and bodies. The Iraqis only lost 30,000 guys in that war and that was quite the image of death. Well, Von der Leyden said 100,000 Ukrainians had died and then it was censored. Where are all those photos? Why are both sides exaggerating claims and not providing evidence?

  11. lyman alpha blob

    Here’s hoping the digital hyrvnia becomes a digital hernia for the Ukrainians.

    Don’t these people know better yet than to be the US’ guinea pig?

    Kill it with fire.

  12. JBird4049

    All this reminds me I need to stock up on old fashioned, out of date greenbacks. I still remember having hardly any cash after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. No power and no money.

    Just a fabulous combination and just what is the Ukrainian government thinking aside from the graft that is? They must know what will happen when the digital meets the powerless grid as it is all there for the seeing. But the Siren of Money calls and the elites will be in Western Europe as “refugees.”

    1. jsn

      Great thing about doing beta testing in a war zone is when your inputs don’t work for your algorithm, you can shoot them.

      Workin’ out the bugs over there before the rollout at home.

    2. witters

      What grid failure? We have a ‘newreader’ and they insist they are only held back by the impossibility of proving a negative, and then not by much so far as I can read.

  13. Barry

    The thing that struck me in this article was not the currency but the repair of the electrical grid.
    Nick quoted Aljazeera: “Engineers work double or triple shifts to repair or replace fried circuits and blackened transformers. After a few days, the power is fixed”
    This seems inconsistent with other articles in NC that indicated that the equipment that the Russians were hitting were unique to Ukraine, Russia (and its satellites) and Nigeria – were incompatible with other countries, were long lasting, spares were therefore very low and manufacturing lead times were very long.
    This article implies that the situation is dire but survivable. The other articles implied that once critical infrastructure is hit – that it is it – the grid is out and will not be back for a long time
    Which is it?

    1. Unseld

      Common sense applied: Assume: normal replacement cycle of parts of a system, say 1 part per year. New Normal: 100 parts destroyed per week. So you need production of new parts to be 100 x 56 per year – all at once. Equivalent increase in manpower needed to install these new parts. It`s simple not possible. Especially in a country where production & transportation is heavily hampered by war and – wait – electricity blackouts…

    2. Not This Again

      I apologize for a long-winded answer, but:

      1) Transformers are quite unique apparatus in North American electrical systems because The NA system was built piecemeal in a very ad hoc manner. The voltages and frequencies (60Hz) are now more or less standardized, but the impedances, footprints, etc. are not. In general you cannot just “stick in” a, say, 6% impedance transformer to replace a, say, 10% impedance transformer because that will screw up the protection systems, causing them to trip.

      2) Transformers are far more standardized in China, which has grown very quickly over the past ~40 years and has designed its system in a top-down manner. Since China’s growth rate was so high and a typical transformer can last for anywhere between 30-80 years, most of China’s equipment can be assumed to be of standard design (at least that is the assumption that I would make).

      3) I have no idea what Russia did for its transformer designs, but I assume that they probably used standardized top down designs. I would be astounded if these designs are consistent with European standards, but WTFDIK?

      4) Repairing “fried circuits” can be done fairly quickly if we are talking simple disconnect replacements or jumpering (basically just removing the disconnect). Most likely the circuits would simply be replaced rather than repaired, I think

      5) In North America, you can assume that it takes ~5 years to get a transformer if you work in a utility and request one. Of this, you can actually build and test a transformer in ~8 weeks (depending on size, etc.). Most of the transformer components are pretty standard except for the windings, which requires specialized labor. This can sometimes be automated now depending on the type of winding, but that is not a foregone conclusion. However the conductor itself almost always requires outsourcing to one of very few companies, almost all of which are in Europe, Korea, or Japan (maybe China now too–I don’t know about that one). This part normally takes multiple weeks or months, depending upon other orders. The transformer steel is normally specialized and must be cut using a specific machine to maximize efficiency.

      If you need tap-changers (basically a way to change the transformer’s voltage to keep the voltage stable at the customer end, then you are almost always going through ABB, Siemens, or Reinhausen (all European). That takes maybe a couple of months, but these devices are standardized and can be hurried if rquired. Tapchangers are almost always internal to the transformer and can’t really just be “added on” afterwards.

      Of the rest of the time for building a transformer: 1-2 years is spent coming up with specs and approvals for purchase, then ~6 months for tender and another ~6 months to design, ~12-24 months to get a manufacturer to actually build because of backlogs.

      So what’s the point of all this? Some personal conclusions (I may be wrong):

      1) If the equipment being hit is *not* a transformer or a breaker, it’s pretty easy to deal with
      2) Utilities always should have spare transformers because of long lead times. If Ukraine’s economy is tanking, then presumably it doesn’t need to supply many of its lines and can move them around (incidentally, under old system designs you would often have two transformers that are lightly loaded sitting side by side–if one goes out, you can just transfer the load to the other one.) Since Europe is deindustrializing, I guess they could ship their transformers as well (or try to feed the Ukrainian system directly). I doubt that the Europeans are that altruistic…
      3) In an emergency, much of the lead times can be enormously reduced by getting rid of paperwork and accepting worse efficiency, making it not quite as bad as you would think…
      4) …But most of the key parts suppliers and manufacturers are in Europe, which is being effected by energy issues, and Asia, which is likely working flat out, but has its own backlogs

      So I am guessing that the West can prioritize Ukrainian orders over its own if it really wants, but because we have been running our own systems pretty close to the margins over the last few years and the average age of our equipment is very close to typical end-of-life type ages, this would really bite us in the ass eventually. Also, transformers are big and heavy–I would be surprised if it were easy to ship them to Ukraine, especially if their roads are deteriorating.

      I hope this makes some sense…

      BTW, simply repairing or doing any repair maintenance on a transformer is time-consuming (as in, it takes weeks in the very best of times)

      1. Not This Again

        Oh yeah–transformers almost always ship by rail before they get to the roads.

        If Ukraine has little rail, they aren’t getting new transformers…

  14. Jeff Andrews

    Whatever scam the Kiev regime is cooking up, you can guarantee American taxpayers will be paying. Whatever happened to “just say no! “ or Nyet, f offski or is nobody in charge in Washington?
    I spent the summer in Spain and this year there were scores of luxury cars outside the villas near me with UKR plates, same all over Europe, even North Africa. They aren’t shy about spending your money, real money by then!

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