[WATCH] Interconnector energy provision at 75% when blackout hit

Enemalta executive chairman: 'If we agree against use of heavy fuel oil, and if we agree on security of supply, no other option remains other than a new power station'

Enemalta executive chairman Fredrick Azzopardi (centre) addressing a press briefing (Photo by James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Enemalta executive chairman Fredrick Azzopardi (centre) addressing a press briefing (Photo by James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Enemalta: New power station required to ensure security of supply

The interconnector was providing 75% of electricity across Malta when it was cut off from the grid following a storm in Sicily, that led to a nationwide blackout.

Enemalta’s chief executive Fredrick Azzopardi told a press conference that the interconnector was providing 148MW of electricity across Malta at the time of the blackout at 1:06am, with the Delimara 1 power plant providing a further 47MW.

As soon as the power cut hit, Enemalta employees switched on the Delimara 3 power plant, and then a gas turbine at the Delimara 2 'BWSC' plant. Electricity through the interconnector was fully reconnected by 3:39am. The interconnector was assessed by Enemalta engineers, who confirmed that it had not suffered any damage or malfunction and had simply switched off automatically following the storm in Ragusa.

Head of government communications Kurt Farrugia had earlier tweeted that an energy mix, to ensure security of supply, was requirement as Malta could not just depend on the interconnector for its electricity generation.

Azzopardi confirmed that the interconnector constantly provides the bulk of electricity needed across the network, with the Delimara 1 plant complementing it.

If the interconnector had not been re-synchronised so soon after being switched off, Enemalta would have had to switch on the Marsa heavy fuel oil power station and use the Delimara 3 plant to its full capacity, according to the energy supplier.

“On any given day, we tend to split the load between the interconnector and the Delimara 1 plant, even though this last one is slightly more expensive to run than the BWSC or Delimara 3 plant,” he said.

The company does this because the Delimara 1 plant provides the second-largest amount of electricity after the interconnector and because it is easiest to keep the others in reserve, as they would power-up faster in case of emergency.

Azzopardi insisted the new LNG power plant was still pivotal, as the company always seeks to maintain what it refers to as ‘security of supply’ – having enough supply in reserve to cater for any contingency, particularly involving the interconnector shutting down.

“If we agree that the country needs to turn away from using heavy fuel oil, we would not have enough supply, including sufficient security of supply, to cover any contingency,” Azzopardi said.

He said that, last week, demand peaked at 410MW. If the interconnector had shut down at that time, the company would not have had enough reserve to keep supplying all the country, Azzopardi insisted.

“But we would have had enough reserve, if the LNG power plant was already up and running.”