Ukraine energy funds 'more efficient' than sending coal

Australia tipping $20 million into a Ukraine energy support fund is more efficient than shipping coal, the foreign minister says.

Penny Wong has announced a $31 million package for Ukraine's energy and humanitarian needs after pleas from Kyiv for an urgent coal shipment, as Russia bombards its power plants with missile and drone strikes.

Asked why the government wasn't sending coal, Senator Wong said the funding enabled the country to make its own decisions about where to spend it on the energy network.

"The advice to me is that support for the energy fund is a more efficient and effective way of providing assistance to Ukraine," she told reporters in Adelaide on Friday.

"This amount of money, should Ukraine wish to spend it for coal, would yield an equivalent amount of coal to what we saw previously."

Operating room hit by a Russian missile at a power plant in Ukraine
Russian missile and drone strikes have targeted Ukraine power plants. (AP PHOTO)

At the outbreak of the war in 2022, Australia donated 70,000 tonnes of coal to Ukraine.

Instead of providing coal, the funding announced on Friday will be used for heat and electricity amid concerns of a shortfall in the European winter.

The Albanese government has been criticised after a call for help by Ukraine went unanswered for six months.

Oil pressure sensors after Russian attack at a power plant in Ukraine
Russia is attacking Ukraine's energy sector in a bid to destroy its power generation capacity. (AP PHOTO)

The government remained unwavering in its support for Ukraine's sovereignty, Senator Wong said.

Opposition foreign spokesman Simon Birmingham said Australia's responsiveness to Ukraine's requests should be swift, not "drawn out and delayed".

"Ukraine's request for coal gathered dust in Australia through one long, cold winter and the Albanese government needs to explain how this funds transfer is preferable to giving the actual coal that Ukraine asked for," he said.

An extra $10 million of emergency humanitarian aid will go to the United Nations for essentials such as food, water and shelter.

An additional $1 million will be provided to help rehabilitate and care for people with disabilities and war injuries.

International Development Minister Pat Conroy said Australia was proud to stand with the Ukrainian people.

"The Australian government remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine and contributing alongside partner nations so that Ukraine can end this conflict on its terms."