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EU energy watchdog worried about Ukraine's energy supplies in winter

SARAJEVO, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Ukraine is facing significant risks to energy supplies this winter as demand will grow while power generation may be disrupted by war, the director of the EU energy watchdog warned in an interview on Friday.

Artur Lorkowski, director of the Energy Community (EC) Secretariat established to extend the European Union’s energy policy to would-be members, said Ukraine’s current power production seemed sufficient to cover its needs after a fall in industrial activity cut consumption by 30%.

“But I expect the situation may change dramatically, because once the heating season starts consumption will grow,” Lorkowski told Reuters. The situation concerning power generation was unclear, he added.

He said Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is currently held by Russia, was cut off from the grid, while some thermal power plants were located in combat areas.

Ukraine is still exporting electricity to the EU and Moldova, enabling it to cover gaps in its finances, but the situation can turn around and Ukraine may need to import electricity from the EU instead, Lorkowski said.

In preparation for winter Ukraine has 14 billion cubic metre (bcm) of gas and 2.2 million tonnes of coal in storage.

“When it comes to gas we believe that the situation is stable,” Lorkowski said, explaining that so far 90% of gas production was under the control of the Ukrainian government and that stocks should be sufficient for the winter.

But if the Zaporizhzhia plant remains offline for a longer time and other coal-fired power plants are down, it would mean Ukraine might need up to 2 billion bcm of extra gas.

Lorkowski said nearly 1.4 million Ukrainians currently do not have access either to electricity or gas, mostly in combat areas in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country. (Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Jan Harvey)