HomeWorldEnemalta in race against darkness to avert repeat summer outages

Enemalta in race against darkness to avert repeat summer outages

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Enemalta will not be in a position to guarantee the country a “security of energy supply” during peak summer months, without a new 60MW “temporary” diesel-powered “emergency plant” in Delimara.

The warning was made by Enemalta’s executive chairman Ryan Fava in a letter asking the Environment and Resources Authority to exempt the project from the legal obligation to conduct an environmental impact assessment.

The new plant, which can be used for a maximum of 500 hours a year, will consist of two containerized gasoil-fired generators located within the boundaries of the existing Delimara power station. The plant is expected to cost Enemalta €46 million over a period of 27 months.

The decision to invest in the new temporary plant was publicly announced by Energy Minister Miriam Dalli in November 2023, when she said the government was allocating €12 million for a power source that could generate an extra 60MW of electricity if one of the existing power supplies were to be interrupted in some way.

But documentation submitted by Enemalta also suggests that in the absence of the new plant, households could end being left in the dark during periods of peak energy demand.

Energy demand expected to be higher than last summer’s

In a letter sent to ERA in November, Enemalta CEO Ryan Fava clearly states that the new plant is needed to make up for the unprecedented increase in energy demand registered in 2023 and which is expected to further increase next year.

Fava noted that while Enemalta had foreseen a steady 3.5% increase in energy demand over the next few years, the 14% spike in demand, which contributed to the power outrage in July 2023, was completely unforeseen.

Enemalta is now anticipating “that demand in the summer of 2024 will rise even higher” and if the emergency plant is not in place by next summer, “it will not be able to guarantee the security of electricity supply.”

While noting that Enemalta is investing in the second Malta-Sicily interconnector which will be in place in three or four years, the country is facing an “interim period” during which Enemalta must secure its electricity supply through “alternative means” and that it must do so “by May 2024 at the very least.”

The procurement and delivery of the new plant was expected to take between six and eight months which means that “the permitting process must be necessarily carried out in parallel with the procurement process.”

Fava acknowledged that the scale of the project will require an EIA but this would also mean that it would be impossible to have the plant operational by summer.

Underlining the urgency of the new plant Fava warned that “the length of time required for the EIA process would without doubt, prevent Enemalta from averting a situation which could be potentially worse than last summer, in which a significant number of customers would likely be without electricity supply for a considerable period.”

Fava described such a scenario as “a real threat to the health and wellbeing of many people as well as their economic welfare.”

Fava insisted that the situation was unprecedented and was not even foreseen in a study conducted by Electricite de France in 2021, which projected that a peak demand of 644 MW would not be reached before 2029.

But this peak was already surpassed in July 2024 when peak demand reached 683 MW. In his letter Fava partly blamed the unforeseen spike in demand on climate change “which has created extreme weather conditions, including long periods of extreme heat during the summer months,” while adding that “such conditions will be experienced again in the summer of 2024.”

EIA exemption granted

On 12 January ERA concluded that since the project is not likely to have a significant impact on the environment, the submission of an EIA is not required.

Enemalta’s project statement says the 60MW back-up is required for seasonal peaks in winter, mainly in January and February, and in summer between June and September, apart from “emergency situations when one of the country’s principal electricity supplies fails during peak demand.”

These emergency situations include periods when Malta is disconnected from the European grid following faults or damages to the interconnector and instances of severe weather conditions affecting the port of Delimara, and in particular the floating LNG storage vessel, for extended periods.

By not exceeding 500 operating hours per year, the plant can only be used for a maximum of 20 days a year.

The installation of the temporary emergency plant will be located in two sites, in close proximity to each other: each will generate 30MW at any instance, produced by two 40-foot mobile, containerized diesel-based generators.

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