Malta is back to pre-interconnector times owing to the fact that two out of the three interconnector cables suffered severe damage last week, Enemalta said in a press conference on Monday night.
Enemalta called a last-minute press conference to give a detailed explanation about the recent disruptions to the supply of electricity to Enemalta customers and an explanation about the restoration of power supply from the interconnector.
The Enemalta technical team, which included Kevin Chircop, chairman of Enemalta, CEO Jason Vella, Stefan Calamatta, Executive director of energy projects, and Carmel Xerri, executive director of distribution systems explained that the interconnector has been damaged.
“Our suspicion is that the cable was severed by a boat anchor,” explained Vella, “two out of the three cables are damaged, and therefore the interconnector is out of action.” The damage occurred on 23 December, triggering a nationwide blackout because the interconnector was carrying the maximum load. This was due to “technical limitations” within the Delimara power station, Enemalta said. They said that due to the damage sustained to the cables, Malta was back to the time when it did not have the interconnector, meaning that it is relying on the output of generator plants.
Vella explained that Enemalta opened the necessary discussions to get a survey ship deployed to the area to assess the damage. The survey alone will cost around €1 million. The survey ship will be leaving Mallorca and if weather permits, the boat should arrive on site by Thursday. A report is not expected to be completed until January 8.
Vella explained that whilst the survey ship has been confirmed, the vessel with a separate team of experts required to repair the interconnector still needs to be confirmed. “We cannot tell how long it will take to repair the damage, and the cost depends on the extent of the damage,” explained Vella.
The interconnector provides 200 Megawatts (MW), while the other plants such as D2A provide 70MW, D2B provides 85MW, D3, which works with gas oil provides 153MW, and D4 provides 210MW. There is also the Marsa Gas Turbine 35MW and the maximum recorded PV’s 100MW (which can be run only during the day).
“During normal operations, Enemalta find a balance between four sources to provide energy; the interconnector, D2B, D3,D4, and the energy provided by pvs,” explained Vella.
Yet currently Enemalta is not experiencing normal operations, as the interconnector is unavailable, local generation assets need time to ramp up. Therefore when part of the local generation plant fails, the system triggers a safety mechanism that is aimed at protecting the plant, by shedding off load. “The shedding is necessary to keep the equilibrium between generation and supply of energy,” explained Chircop.
Enemalta has taken the precautionary step to increase the spinning reserve-engines that will be running without producing electricity, to ensure the downtime during an outage is kept to the minimum possible. Chircop explained that such measures cost the company an additional €150,000 per day.
“This problem is very normal in this industry, and problems which many countries experience. Unfortunately, Malta is islanded from other energy supplies, unlike other countries,” said Chircop.
Enemalta called the press conference after the country experienced a number of power cuts across various localities over the past days, including one today.