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‘Solar Marshall Plan’: Can Ukraine become the world’s first post-war country rebuilt on renewables?

Solar panels in the yard of an apartment building in Lyman, Donetsk region, November 2022.
Solar panels in the yard of an apartment building in Lyman, Donetsk region, November 2022. Copyright AP Photo/Andriy Andriyenko
Copyright AP Photo/Andriy Andriyenko
By Lottie Limb
Published on Updated
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Campaigners are calling for a solar energy Marshall Plan ahead of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin next week.

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Ukraine could install five times more solar energy capacity than the government’s current plan, according to a new study.

Greenpeace campaigners are calling for the embattled country to adopt a ‘Solar Energy Marshall Plan’ - in reference to the US-funded programme that helped Europe rebuild after the Second World War.

The study they commissioned from economic consultancy firm Berlin Economics is released today ahead of the Ukraine Recovery Conference taking place in Berlin next week.

“Addressing the energy crisis must be at the heart of the Ukraine Recovery Conference,” says Andree Böhling, energy expert at Greenpeace. “A rapid and massive expansion of solar energy through a ‘Solar Energy Marshall Plan’ should play a central role.”

Why does Ukraine need to accelerate its solar power?

Russia has destroyed or captured more than half of Ukraine’s power generation since the start of its full-scale invasion in 2022. Power plants have been particularly targeted by missile and drone attacks in recent months.

“The result is rolling blackouts nationwide, deepening fears about future energy supply to Ukrainian cities, and likely a freezing cold winter for millions of Ukrainians if Europe doesn't act quickly,” Svitlana Romanko, founder and director of campaign group Razom We Stand, tells Euronews Green.

Half of the country’s hydropower plants have been destroyed or damaged, and almost half of its nuclear reactors are permanently offline due to the occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Solar energy is key to rebuilding Ukraine’s energy supply because it can be deployed easily, cheaply, and quickly,” explains Böhling. “Decentralised solar installations are also much less vulnerable to Russian attacks and can provide reliable energy to every community and household very quickly.”

How much more solar should Ukraine install?

Romanko says there is a “silver lining” to Russia’s devastation of Ukraine - as it offers “the chance to rebuild its energy infrastructure in a smarter and more localised way that provides an asymmetric and innovative response to energy security threats.”

The government’s recently adopted ‘Ukraine Plan’ foresees 0.7 gigawatts (GW) of extra solar capacity coming online by 2027.

Ukraine's solar photovoltaic power potential.
Ukraine's solar photovoltaic power potential.Greenpeace

But according to the Greenpeace-commissioned study, Ukraine can afford to be more ambitious. Berlin Economics’ analysis shows that 3.6 GW in the next three years is both feasible and economically advantageous. 

By 2030, it suggests that total installed solar capacity could grow to 14 GW from today’s 5.6 GW.

The study sets out steps for how Ukraine can realise this brighter future - but it all hinges on international support.

How can Ukraine scale up its solar power?

There are a number of obstacles to Ukraine fulfilling its solar potential. A lack of incentives for investors, insufficient grid stability and workforce shortages are three key obstacles Greenpeace highlights.

The NGO is demanding that partner countries help out by providing cheaper loans through financial aid; more technical know-how and skilled workers; and battery storage technologies.

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A map showing areas with particular solar power potential - close to existing transmission lines.
A map showing areas with particular solar power potential - close to existing transmission lines.Greenpeace

A recent report from Razom We Stand also flags that current laws fail to define “decentralised electricity generation” and do not regulate energy storage systems or small distribution systems. Simplifying access to the grid is essential for more of these secure projects, it says.

Campaigners also want to see EU countries invest in new interconnection projects with Ukraine, and cross-border ventures that enhance regional security. 

Can the Ukraine Recovery Conference speed up Ukraine’s solar journey?

“Increased support for sustainable, decentralised, energy-efficient, renewable energy projects will help make Ukraine the world's first post-war country rebuilt on renewable energy, setting a global precedent for infrastructure-centred climate actions,” says Romanko.

The Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin on 11-12 June - the first time the now-annual event will be held in an EU country - provides an “extraordinary opportunity” to help realise this greener future, she says. 

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Though the campaigner is disappointed that energy topics are “scarcely mentioned on the agenda”. 

This year’s conference has a wide-ranging focus on recovery, reconstruction and modernisation more generally; looking at the business, social, local and EU dimensions of getting the country back on the best footing. 

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