If investigations into the controversial Electrogas contract and Montenegro deal shows wrongdoing, responsibility has to be shouldered by those who acted in bad faith, Energy Minister Miriam Dalli told The Malta Independent on Sunday.
Last month, Prime Minister Roberta Abela announced a Cabinet reshuffle which saw four new ministries being set up while three others experienced some changes. One of these three ministries was the Energy Ministry with former PL MEP Miriam Dalli taking on the role as minister for this portfolio.
The Malta Independent on Sunday spoke with the new minister to get her perspective on certain contentious issues that this ministry experienced throughout the years as well as her opinion Malta’s energy supply and bills.
Dalli was asked a number of questions about the Electrogas contract and the Montenegro windfarm deal, which raised sharp criticism.
With regard to the Electrogas, Dalli was asked if she has a strategy in mind for it in view of all the controversies and how she intends to restore trust in the project as shareholders are looking to pull out of the power station consortium.
The minister did not give any direct answers to these questions; yet, she acknowledged the scrutiny that the contract has faced, and is facing, from several institutions and the ongoing investigations that were opened following the moot revelations.
“If these investigations show any wrongdoing, responsibility has to be shouldered by those who acted in bad faith,” she stated, adding that this also applies to the the Montenegro deal where a police probe is underway while Enemalta itself has launched an internal audit.
‘Powercuts continue to highlight the importance of diversification’
This newsroom pointed out that whenever there is a major electrical issue in Malta, the interconnector is blamed but people are questioning whether this is true and asked Dalli if the government is planning to do something so that this does not repeat itself.
Dalli explained that the government’s 2013 plan was built on the notion that the Maltese islands needed a new plant due to the increase in Malta’s electricity demand and the necessity to ensure security of supply, meaning that the generation of electricity does not come from a single source.
“This is important due to Malta’s location as an island, physcially isolated from a continent. If anything, the power cuts we may experience – which one has to admit are far less to what our country had gotten used to – continue to highlight the importance of diversification. It confirms that one source of energy on its own is not sufficient.
“This is not a competition between the interconnector or the LNG plant – as a country we are proud of both technologies,” she added, noting that it was a Labour government that obtained the necessary permits for the interconnector.
She also said that she is not trying to blame someone when she epxlains a fault such as the last powercut caused by a storm in Sicily; “I am being transparent on what happens. Let’s also not forget that the interconnector is an underwater cable between Italy and Malta: the exposure to risk is there.”
Asked if she plans to introduce more renewable energy projects considering her previous role as a main speaker for the environment as MEP, Dalli said that Malta needs to continue to diversify its energy mix, not only to ensure energy independence but also to increase its share of renewable sources of energy.
“We are looking at all options and I will work to adapt solutions that can work in Malta.”
‘Burden of electricity bills in Malta over the past seven years much less than pre-2013’
The Energy Minster was asked if she is comfortable with the utility bills that households and businesses are receiving to which she replied that the burden of electricity bills in Malta over the past seven years is much less than it was pre-2013, “as confirmed by Eurostat data”.
“If we take the first half of this year, the price of electricity for each family in Malta was of €0.13 kw/hr, compared to the Eurozone’s €0.23 kw/hr. This means that Maltese families have the fourth lowest bills in the EU, and the second lowest in the Eurozone area, only preceeded by Estonia,” she remarked.
Dalli also noted that the Maltese islands departed from a situation whereby households and businesses faced constant changes in prices, causing instability in planning, and very bad air quality as a result of the Heavy Fuel Oil. However, the plan to change the source of energy to LNG has resulted in price stability and cleaner air.