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Updated | ‘We are at the most exciting part of our roadmap’ – Konrad Mizzi

Minister Konrad Mizzi says Malta cannot rely solely on BWSC power station and interconnector as electricity sources. • Oppostion MPs stage walk-out in protest that Mizzi was not fired as minister following the Panama Papers scandal. 

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
28 October 2016, 12:16pm
Last updated on 28 October 2016, 1:08pm
Minister Konrad Mizzi delivers a speech in Parliament
Minister Konrad Mizzi delivers a speech in Parliament
Minister Konrad Mizzi has hailed the government’s energy plans as “revolutionary and visionary”, dismissing the Opposition’s arguments that the LNG power station is an unnecessary project.

Addressing Parliament, Mizzi said that the government is at “the most exciting part” of its roadmap, and that the LNG power station project is now just awaiting an operational permit before it can start functioning.

He dismissed the Opposition’s argument that the government will be able to purchase electricity at cheaper rates if it relies solely on energy from the BWSC power station and the interconnector.

“The interconnector is not always switched on, it can be damaged in an accident, and electricity prices from it varies according to the market rate which is unfortunatley on the up,” he said. “Malta cannot just rely on the interconnector and the BWSC power station alone, as this would require Delimara 1 to continue operating, with Delimara 2 and part of Marsa on standby.”

Indeed, he claimed that the PN recognizes the importance of the power station, quoting from the party’s recent pre-Budget document that the “conversion to gas has its economic and enviironmental benefits…being a cleaner and chepaer source of energy”.

“I honestly believe that Simon Busuttil doesn’t even read his own documents,” Mizzi said.

The former energy minsiter added that the Delimara 1 and the Marsa power stations will soon close down once and for all, after which Marsa will be “regenerated into a buzzing hub of activity”.

He also said that the government will soon apply for permits to construct a gas pipeline connecting Malta and Italy, and suggested that previous PN adminsitrations had missed golden opportunities to construct this project as it had succumbed to pressure from the oil lobby.

“The Labour government did not find a single report on the pipeline, but we have now applied for EU funds for it and it has been marked as a project of common interest.

“We will ensure the most dynamic energy mix possible for the country, thanks to a visionary project that will see Malta become competitive with other European countries.”

He also said that the governemnt’s controversial €360 million bank guarantee to the Electrogas consortium that will operate the power station is in line EU legislation and is a temporary measure that will be removed before the next election.

 Only a couple of Labour MPs were present in the House to listen to Mizzi’s speech, after Opposition MPs staged a walk-out in protest against the minister.

Opposition Whip David Agius said that the PN didn’t “recognize Mizzi’s legitimacy”, given that he owns an offshore company in Panama and led the few PN MPs in the house – Marthese Portelli, Paula Mifsud Bonnici and Antoine Borg – out of the Chamber.

Social policy minister Micahel Farrugia and Labour MP Joe Debono Grech shouted over Agius in anger as he spoke up, and later waved the PN MPs out of the Chamber, mockingly telling them “Bye”.

Mizzi said that the Opposition’s walk-out was an attempt to steal the headlines and divert public attention from the content of his speech.

Earlier, Opposition MP Ryan Callus took Mizzi to task for recently posting a promotional flyer for the LNG power station to every household on the island.

“Why was Mizzi’s smiling face on the flyer? Isn’t he supposed to be a minister without a portofolio? Then why was his face printed on the flier, and not that of the Prime Minister – who should now be energy minister?”

He also claimed that the flyer was full of “lies” – such as suggesting that the power station has contributed to a 25% reduction in emissions, and that the LNG tanker will only be docked in Marsaxlokk Bay on a temporary basis.

“It didn’t mention that it will be a temporary measure for 18 whole years. Try and explain that to Marsaxlokk and Birzebbuga residents,” he said.