Disruptions. Energy Supply in Post-Annexation Crimea, 2014–2018

In March 2014, the Russian Federation annexed Crimea. While the Kremlin assumed political control over the peninsula swiftly, other spheres of power proved to be harder to coopt. An eminent example is the supply of electric energy to the peninsula. Crimea was connected to the Ukrainian power grid since Soviet times. Despite the conflict over Crimea, the Ukrainian grid company UkrEnergo kept supplying approximately two thirds of the peninsula’s electric energy in 2015. However, the transmission lines to Crimea became a target of sabotage, leaving 2 million Crimeans without electricity in November 2015. Russia intensely works on detaching the peninsula from its dependence on the Ukrainian grid; a first energy bridge from mainland Russia to Crimea became operational in 2016.

The case of Crimea’s electricity supply showcases how distributive justice is also a matter of international power relations. Based on archival resources, parliamentary discussions, newspaper articles, interviews, and blog entries, this contribution discusses the entanglement of energy, grid, power and conflict. It analyzes which considerations led to the formation of the grid in its 2014 form. Thus, a close look at the changing rationales of Soviet energy policy is paramount. How did decisions from Soviet times influence the energy struggle in post-annexation Crimea? And, focusing on the peninsula’s newest history: From Kyiv’s perspective, would it be just to disconnect Crimea from the Ukrainian grid? Or would such a measure de facto recognize the Russian annexation of the peninsula and declare Crimeans as second-class citizens of Ukraine? Does a Russian electricity supply to the peninsula deliver ‘unjust energy’, or is it a rather pragmatic solution in in favor of the local population? And more generally: Can energy be neutral and exist beyond questions of justice at all?