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Labour’s ‘energy mix’ will satisfy EU energy security demands - minister

If Malta uses just 20% of the Sicily interconnector, will it satisfy EU demands for connectivity to the mainland grid?

Miriam Dalli
1 April 2013, 12:00am
Energy minister Konrad Mizzi
Energy minister Konrad Mizzi

As the Maltese government prepares for the May EU summit on energy, Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi said that his government's energy plans will satisfy the European Union's demands.

The EU is currently working on the completion of the Internal Energy Market and on interconnections with European energy markets. The EU is adamant that no EU Member State should remain isolated from the European gas and electricity networks after 2015.

According to the council conclusions of the traditional spring EU summit, Europe needs investment in modern energy infrastructure and the challenge of high-energy prices that hamper competitiveness needs to be tackled.

The EU has now decided it wants to reduce its dependence on Russian fuel and Ukrainian pipelines by diversifying the purchase and transportation of fuel. Alarm bells rang when in early 2009, Russia cut its gas exports to Europe by 60%. This move exposed Europe's energy dependence on imports, especially when considering that gas imports are set to increase to 70% and 80% by 2030. According to the EU, this would mean an additional cost of €700 a year per EU citizen.

Europe now wants to diversify its imports to minimise the risk of being dependent on a single exporter. The solution to this is interconnectivity - where for example Malta will be connected to Sicily - and greater gas and electricity infrastructure projects to link Europe to North Africa and gas-rich countries of the Caspian and Middle East regions through strategic initiatives such as the Nabucco pipeline.

So in May, the European Council will be holding a summit dedicated to energy. In preparation for this summit an informal meeting between Energy Ministers will be held in the fourth week of April, to which Konrad Mizzi will also attend, to lay the groundwork.

The outcome of the latest discussions held on the Internal Energy Market highlighted that there is a need for adequate interconnections, which is also relevant to ending the isolation of certain Member States and to address the tension that exists between the functioning of the market and the integration of renewable energy, which is proceeding at different speeds in Europe and the security and diversification of supply.

But how is Malta preparing for this important summit?

According to Mizzi, the government is undertaking a process whereby the main themes of the energy policy issued by the previous government are being updated to reflect the priorities set out in the Labour Party electoral manifesto.

"These main themes are already being discussed informally with our European counterparts," Mizzi said.

Labour's plan is to switch the fuel for generation of electricity at the Delimara Power Station from heavy fuel oil to gas.

This will involve investment by the private sector in a new 200MW combined cycle gas turbine unit, which will be gas fired. The new generators at Delimara will also be converted to gas while Phase 2 of the plant will be retained as reserve capacity fired by gas oil.

The government envisages that Phase 1 of Delimara will be phased out.

"Moreover in the short-term, gas fired generation will be made possible through the development of a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) infrastructure which will be developed in partnership with the private sector," Mizzi said, as revealed in the first days of the 2013 electoral campaign.

Mizzi reminded that the project would translate into lower generation costs and will also reduce emissions. The strategy would also provide industry, hotels and transport operators with an alternative fuel option.

Mizzi said the government was committed to ensure both security of supply and sustainable cost of power generation.

"The priority is to go for LNG infrastructure in the short term. But we will also progress plans to develop the Malta-Sicily interconnector which will ensure that Malta will be connected to the European electricity network," he said.

On Thursday, Italy issued the permit for the interconnector between Malta and Sicily. The permit includes the authorisation for connection with interconnectors at Marina di Ragusa and for the placing of 20-kilometre cables underground leading to the Terna Substation in Ragusa.

Mizzi said the Labour government will continue with plans to further interconnect with Europe in the longer-term through other options such as the development of a Gas pipeline.

But while the PN administration was also looking into the possibility of developing a second interconnector, the Labour government is confident that its energy plan is enough to meet security demands.

"Our current assessment of the energy requirements is that gas fired generation supplied through LNG in the short-term and possibly through a pipeline in the longer-term, complemented by the interconnector with Sicily which is in development, a robust reserve capacity and investments in renewables and energy efficiency will provide Malta with the required energy mix," Mizzi said.
Miriam Dalli joined in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...
"PN administration was also looking into the possibility of developing a second interconnector" and "possibly through a pipeline in the longer-term". Is he saying that PN's plans were to introduce another interconnector and is he now taking credit for the pipeline idea?