Reporting by Gerald Fenech
With blackouts hitting Malta on an alarmingly regular basis, Enemalta convened a press conference this evening to explain the current state of play.
Enemalta CEO Jason Vella confirmed that the Malta-Sicily interconnector was severely damaged by a ship’s anchor on 23rd December and will be out of action until the end of February by the earliest.
A survey ship will depart Mallorca on 2nd January to assess the damage, with the survey expected to be completed six days later, weather permitting. Negotiations are currently underway for a second ship to conduct the necessary repairs and, although no timeframe has been calculated yet, Vella estimated that repairs won’t be completed until at least the end of February.
The interconnector has a capacity of 200MW, just over a quarter of Malta’s total energy generation capacity of 753 MW. With it out of action, Malta is relying on the LNG power station (D4), which is running at full capacity, the BWSC plant (D3), and two reserve turbines (D2A and D2B).
Enemalta is paying around €150,000 a day for the so-called ‘spinning reserve’, the generation of power from these two older turbines.
However, regular faults at these power stations have resulted in blackouts. When the interconnector was damaged on 23rd December and the energy load shifted to the power stations, a turbine at the LNG power station tripped and a blackout ensued.
Yesterday, one of the reserve turbines tripped and today one of the LNG power station’s turbines tripped again, both resulting in brief blackouts.
Malta is currently capable of generating 553MW, which means that the island should be covered if the interconnector is up and running again before summer but that capacity problems could occur if the issue drags out into the hotter months, when energy consumption tends to be higher.
To put things in perspective, there was a 390MW demand today, which is expected to rise to 466MW in January. The peak last summer was 522MW.
Vella confirmed that energy demand is increasing faster than anticipated and said a study is underway on how to diversify energy requirements.