OREANDA-NEWS. July 06, 2010. Ukraine's biggest power producer, DTEK, hopes to increase exports of electricity to Europe from its coal-fired plants and wind turbines, Chief Operating Officer Yuriy Ryzhenkov said.

Controlled by Ukraine's richest man Rinat Akhmetov, DTEK is little known in Europe, but it has big expansion ambitions.

Its six thermal power plants have around a 45 percent share of the Ukrainian market and its 11 coal mines contribute around 24 percent of Ukraine's annual coal output.

DTEK's revenues amount to around USD 1.6 billion a year.

The company has acquired rights to export 150 megawatts of electricity across the border to its western neighbours, but after exporting some power in January and February, it had to put that on hold due to low coal stocks.

"Now stocks are back to normal, and we see the possibility of resuming the exports. Hopefully it will resume in the near future," Ryzhenkov told Reuters in an interview.

"Overall, the EU market is a very interesting market, especially east Europe, where growth will continue."

Imports of power from coal-fired plants will not be welcomed everywhere in Europe, where power companies must soon start buying permits to emit each tonne of carbon dioxide in the EU's quest for a more climate-friendly economy.

"We will always hear complaints from European energy companies that this energy is somehow not clean," said Ryzhenkov. "If you look at Ukrainian power generators, they are nowhere near as carbon-efficient as western peers."

None of the 96 power-generating units in Ukraine's 14 stations meet European Union norms, but upgrades are being undertaken as part of Ukraine's efforts to join Europe's Energy Community, he said.

The Community, founded in 2005 to ensure close cooperation among EU member states and neighbouring countries, said in December that Ukraine could join if it made its gas laws compliant with EU legislation.

DTEK has invested in modernising four of its power plants, is working on another, and also has big plans for wind power.

"We think Ukraine has a very high potential," said Ryzhenkov. "We've audited six sites and see 38 percent operating efficiency, so now we're in negotiations for construction of turbines."

In total the wind project in southeast Ukraine could rise to 200 megawatts of capacity over the next three or four years, compared to Ukraine's current total of around 90 megawatts.

Wind turbines need large amounts of investment capital, however, something that both cash-short Ukraine and the renewables industry have struggled to attract in recent times.

But DTEK is not daunted. A USD 500 million bond issue in April was nearly four times oversubscribed, even if it had to offer a yield of 9.75 percent to attract so many investors.

"Stability in Ukraine has improved the metrics quite a bit," said Ryzhenkov. "We are quite optimistic lately about access to capital."