USEA Assistance Followed Breakdown of Soviet Union
Dipka Bhambhani is the director of communications for the U.S. Energy Association, a bipartisan energy advisory representing 151 companies across the energy sector. Dipka manages internal and external communications and media relations.
Twenty-five years ago, in 1991, two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union was dissolving, and the former Soviet republics were just trying to survive.
It's something Will Polen, senior director of the U.S. Energy Association, remembers vividly.
He was on the front lines with the U.S. Agency for International Development as the partners joined to rebuild Europe's electric grid.
The goal was to improve the individual republics' electricity infrastructure and disconnect it from the Soviet grid, which was basic and run-down.
"When we started, we were working with vertically-integrated, state-owned utilities that were legacies of the Communist era," Polen said. "When we arrived on the scene in 1992, they were bankrupt."
"They were cannibalizing their systems because they hadn't been able to afford maintenance. So for probably fifteen years before we arrived, the networks were deteriorating."
Polen said the grid now looks nothing like it did twenty-five years ago. "We were able to help disconnect the utilities in that region from the Soviet grid, and then connect those utilities to the European grid to become a stable part of Europe," he said.