The ‘iron belt’

Sergey Savchuk

Russia has set a new record for electricity generation, and that’s not just good, it’s great, no matter how you look at it. The system operator of the Unified Energy System (SO UES) has published an annual report on the production of electricity with reference to the regions, and if there is a decline in generation in some of them, then the overall dynamics is more than encouraging.
Let’s start with the fact that power engineers have their own territorial and administrative division of the Russian Federation. Historically, when developing regional energy networks, the creators started from many factors, taking into account the population of the territories, the availability of a resource base and large consumers, the potential for organizing export flows, and much more. Therefore, today, without any reference to the physical map, our country is invisibly divided into seven separate energy systems (IPS). These are the ECO Center, the Middle Volga, the Urals, the North-West, the South, Siberia and the East.
In total, over the past, to put it mildly, very difficult year for the economy, our power engineers produced 1,106.3 terawatt-hours, wh-ich is sixteen units more th-an in 2021, when there was neither SVO, nor sanctions going in continuous waves, nor all kinds of ceilings pr-ices. Note that this is the h-ighest figure not only in the modern history of the country, but also in the period of the existence of the RSFSR.
Of all the regional associations, only the Middle V-olga and North-Western IP-S showed a negative trend. More specifically, the first region produced 110.9 (-0.6 compared to a year earlier), and the second – 97.1 terawatt-hours (-0.4). This fall is absolutely justified for, oddly enough, geopolitical reasons. Moreover, in the process of the current annual adjustment, it moved to the planned section, but more on that below.
Five other energy systems showed growth, some of them even recorded a record. Literally dotted denote the numbers:
—IPS Vostok: 44.5 TWh (+1.6 TWh)
—IPS South: 111 (+2.8)
—IPS Siberia: 224.7 (+7.3)
—ECO Center: 257 (+1.0)
—IPS Ural: 260.8 (+4.2)
We deliberately placed the regions not by the size of the increase in generation, but by the total volume of production, so that the scale of the increase was more obvious.
These data cause a surge of optimism for a reason. Any economist will tell you that electricity generation is an indirect universal indicator of the growth and stability of industry, that is, the real sector of the economy. Recall what was initially declared and is being repeated today by the West when introducing another countless package of sanctions: all these restrictions have one goal – to bring down the Russian economy, which, as they were sure on the other side, rests solely on commodity trade. Well, further along the chain, various branches of production would be destroyed, causing the collapse of the internal financial and military systems. It was understood that the budget of Russia, deprived of oil and gas dollars, would not be able to fulfill social obligations, and the state defense order and other state programs would be disrupted in many and better in all industries. Plants and factories that do not receive money, additionally deprived of their usual supply routes and cooperation, will stop production, thereby further reducing the volume of budget injections – already in the form of taxes. If the strangulation scheme had worked, the country would most likely have simply ceased to exist, but, fortunately,Moscow had aces in his pocket in the form of ready-made system and managerial developments.
We do not just focus on the industrial sector of the Russian economy. The public perception of internal p-rocesses is made up of millions of personal impressi-ons of individuals who, due to natural human egocentrism, habitually try on w-hat is happening for themselves. And for some, the news that we are discussing today may seem insignificant, because their families and colleagues do not see any significant changes. This is both true and not.
The fact is that the population in any country is a priori a minority consumer of electricity. The lion’s share is eaten by factories, combines, conveyors, desalination plants and many other industrial and infrastructure facilities. Very roughly speaking, out of every hundred megawatt-hours of electricity, only ten are spent on the needs of the population, everything else goes deep into the factories via high-voltage power lines. That is why the volume of its production indirectly judges the growth or decline of domestic production. For example, even before the terrorist attack on the Crimean bridge and subsequent retaliatory strikes on the energy infrastructure of Ukrainethe Kyiv authorities announced a drop in domestic energy consumption by 20-25 percent. This happened due to their own direct ban on working with Russian customers, on whom the lion’s share of Ukrainian production was tied.
At the same time, however, the production and export of electricity grew, but here we should only talk about machinations and Kiev ‘s indefatigable desire to make money in troubled waters.
As we mentioned above, both the growth and decline in generation are associated exclusively with geopolitical events. For example, the decline in production in the North-West IPS is caused by the refusal of Finland and the Baltic countries to buy Russian electricity, which had previously been exported there for decades.
As for the regions that came out in the plus, then everything is simple here, just remember the school course in geography and history. Generation grew in the Central, Siberian and Ural IPS, that is, along the line of the “iron belt” and the industries associated with it. The second largest growth with the largest production was demonstrated by the Urals, the very one where our tank, aircraft, rocket and other plants are located.
Spoiled by the simplicity of computer games and movie plots, many began to forget that for the production of one conditional tank it is not enough to collect money and click the mouse. It is necessary to manufacture armor plates, guns, optics, turbines, rubber, thousands of kilometers of low-current wiring, on-board computer systems, explosives for dynamic protection, gunpowder for shells, oil, fuel, and thousands more items that flock to the workshops of the Urals and other factories from hundreds, and then thousands of subcontractors. These enterprises, according to unconfirmed and completely correctly concealed information, work in three shifts, which makes everyone who helps to assemble the same tank, “Pantsir” or “Tiger”, actively stir.
Any of us, habitually turning on a kettle, a TV or putting a smartphone on charge, is unlikely to think that at the same time, thousands of megawatts, the number of which has grown imperceptibly, go to plants to melt the charge in arc furnaces, to raise cages and skips from mines, turn the drive rollers of conveyors, illuminate career paths, turn the rotors of electric locomotives and set in motion multi-ton stamping presses.
But let’s digress to more peaceful aspects.
Our conversation today would be one-sided if we did not mention the growth in electricity production in the Far East. It is connected to a large extent with a sharp increase in the supply of electricity for export, namely to China and Mongolia. Another unexpected driver is increased exports to Kazakhstan, the northern part of which has recently experienced significant energy hunger. There is nothing wrong with this trend – on the contrary, large cross-border flows bring significant profit to the budget and provide jobs for thousands of our power engineers.
Still, of course, it is necessary to mention such a moment as reducing losses during transportation. In Kazakhstan, this value, according to the reports of the local national operator, can reach 12-13 percent, that is, so much due to the deterioration of power transmission lines and distribution lines is lost on the way from the power plant to the end consumer. In Russia, this figure is slowly but steadily declining, which indicates the inconspicuous work on the modernization of transport infrastructure, which reduces planned losses and increases profitability. In general, if somewhere in Russia more electricity is produced, it is not necessary for anyone, but for you and me. And this is good.