Living in Kyiv amidst power blackouts–a few observations
In recent three months, Russia has been conducting regular terrorist attacks against Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
Amazingly, the Ukrainian energy system still works, and long blackouts have happened only several times in Kyiv. Still, most days we have multiple power outages for many hours each as the government is trying to balance electricity and keep critical systems running.
Here’s a few random observations about daily life in Kyiv in recent months (noting that the situation might become worse as the attacks continue).
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1) Relying on electricity, while good for environmental reasons in peacetime, is a major weakness during the war.
I’m among the lucky ones — my apartment has a gas stove; heating and running water don’t directly rely on electricity. There were times when I didn’t have running water and heating because of Russian attacks, but those have been exceptions so far.
Many people aren’t as lucky; their houses are fully electrified, so they lose all the amenities during daily outages.
2) I’m amazed at the flexibility and adaptability of Ukrainian businesses — even flower shops have diesel generators these days; coffee shops and restaurants have long had menus adapted to the absence of power. (Forbes recently reported that over 350,000 generators were imported to Ukraine in 2022 excluding December, equivalent to one power unit of a nuclear power plant).
Not to mention, of course, the resiliency of Ukraine’s energy system and the everyday heroism of people maintaining it against the odds.
3) Blackouts cancel out the rise of work from home. For many office workers working from home becomes a luxury they can’t afford; a sensible thing to do is to gather people in offices where it’s easier to keep the lights on even during blackouts. (Of course, that has obvious security risks, but every decent office has either its own shelter or easy access to nearby shelters).
My daily routine now is coming to the office and getting most of the work done in nine hours (power outages typically don’t happen there from 11am to 8pm, unless the situation is critical). Sometimes I can get some work done from home in the morning or at night, but I don’t rely on being able to, and I don’t schedule online meetings for the time I’m not able to work from an office.
More broadly, the war has caused many organizations to rethink their approach to online meetings — there are less of them, and they are shorter.