Not enough energy for peak hours if Delimara shuts down

Malta may not be able to meet electricity demand in peak hours if the Delimara power station had to shut down due to unforeseen circumstances

Malta may not be able to meet electricity demand in peak hours if the Delimara power station had to shut down due to unforeseen circumstances like extreme weather, disruption of the LNG supply or sabotage.

A risk assessment, carried out the energy ministry in December, concluded that in such an extreme case the country would still be able to produce just enough energy to function on an average day. “The exceptional high demand may not be met in extreme circumstances due to the lack of alternative capacity when peak demand occurs,” the report concludes.

The risk assessment was carried out in compliance with the EU’s Gas Security of Supply Regulation.

It said the loss of Malta’s gas facility would have a significant impact on the social and economic wellbeing and security of the Maltese islands, making it important to secure the site against natural hazards or man-made threats.

The risk assessment considered the likelihood of the loss of the gas facility at Delimara on a day of peak demand as a low one, one that has a likelihood of occurring “once in 20 years”.

As the only use of gas in Malta is for electricity generation, the risk assessment considered how the loss of the LNG facility would affect the supply of electricity to the archipelago.

The report, carried out before the COVID-19 crisis, notes that the steep increase in population, growing demand in the housing market, increasing immigration from demand in the labour market, and growth of tourism have intensified pressure on land and scarce water resources.

This has led to an increase in energy demand which is expected to continue growing in the future.

Moreover, Malta’s potential for renewable energy deployment is limited by physical and spatial limitations, with the availability of and cost of land being the main restrictions for further deployment of renewables.

The report even says that solar PV energy is leading to grid stability issues, because with a projected capacity of circa 260MW in 2030, rapid fluctuations due to cloud coverage would need unprecedented “online” back-up of around 20-25% of Malta’s peak demand in 2020.

Given the limited options for cost-effective, indigenous sources, Malta’s reliance on energy imports is expected to remain high in the near future.

Malta’s strategy to achieve greater security of supply is based on the diversification of energy sources in terms of procurement channels, exporting country and supplier, as well as contingency planning in case of a disruption in supply.

The risk assessment identifies a series of scenarios which can lead to a shutdown of the Delimara power station.

These include gas disruption in third countries or a commercial dispute with suppliers; sabotage, vandalism or industrial disputes affecting the gas facility; an explosion, fire, leak or lighting strike at the Delimara site; and a failure of electricity supply to LNG jetty and regasification facility. The possibility of an ICT failure or cyber-attack to gas facility is also assessed.

One major shortcoming identified in the report is the “limited visibility” of information on the mid-term gas supply situation about stock levels.

The report recommends “routine monitoring and reporting to the ministry” to monitor gas supply and demand and stock levels after noting lack of information on this aspect.

The risk of the cancellation of near-term (within a month) LNG shipments is deemed acceptable although “within-day demand may not be met on extreme summer demand day-in-day and evening”. To avert this risk the report notes that the operator has identified and sourced alternative LNG supplies like Algeria.

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