Updated | 160 million energy and water bills left unpaid

Energy minister says loan repayment for Delimara power station phase 1 to be repaid within 25 years’ time, Enemalta to register €49 million loss in 2013

The repayment of the loans covering the construction of the first Delimara plant in 1989 have started in the past weeks, but the process is expected to take another 25 years.

Speaking during this morning's parliamentary sitting, Minister for Energy Konrad Mizzi accused the previous administration of having been "irresponsible" in paying just the interest portion of the servicing of the debt, but not the actual capital borrowed for the construction of the first phase of the Delimara power station.

Mizzi said a special purposed vehicle set up to pay up the debt and created by bipartisan consensus, would see assets from the Delimara power station transferred into this new set-up that will be responsible to pay back the debt. "This means that we have now tarted paying up these loans. In 25 years' time the loan will be completely paid," Mizzi said.

Mizzi gave a detailed breakdown of Enemalta's accounts and estimates, saying that by the end of this year, Enemalta is expected to register a deficit of €49 million. "Last year there was a deficit of €65 million, even though the PN government had predicted a loss of only €15 million," Mizzi said.

According to Mizzi, one of the main problems behind the deficit was the situation found inside Enemalta's and the Water Services Corporation's billing company ARMS (Automated Management Revenue Management), the main revenue collector for Enemalta.

"There are 160 million bills which are still not paid, 11 million of which have been pending for more than five years," Mizzi said. Apart from these, another 30,000 bills have not been sent.

Mizzi also said that in contrast with previous years, the conditions and terms of payment for the latest tender awarded for heavy fuel oil for the new Delimara turbines had been more advantageous, with the oil suppliers implicated in the oil scandal - namely Total and Trafigura - barred from the bidding process. "We finally succeded in increasing competition in Enemalta, and this is the result of a more transparent process," Mizzi said.

Mizzi also said that power cuts from the Delimara power station were still expected to happen, although this situation - a great source of inconvenience for residences and businesses alike -will be addressed in the near future with investment in the power distribution system.

On behalf of the Opposition, newly elected MPs Toni Bezzina and Ryan Callus focused on the environmental impact the new gas power station being proposed by the government would have on its surroundings.

"With the introduction of frequent ships carrying natural gas and the reclamation of land, Marsaxlokk bay will be contaminated. What will happen to the fishermen of Marsaxlokk?" Toni Bezzina asked. He also asked what the expected lifespan of the new project is. Ryan Callus asked what happened to the plans of having a gas pipeline and whether the new power station would have a chimney as high as the present one.

Former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, rebutted allegations made by Labour MP Marlene Farrugia that the estimated €49 deficit had resulted from mismanagement of the corporation. "The government confirmed and kept persons who provided consultancies in the past," he said in a reference to former Enemalta chief executive David Spiteri Gingell. "This is a certificate showing there was no mismanagement."

"Lower prices for heavy fuel oil are good news, but this still leaves a substantial loss of €50 million. I expected Minister Mizzi to come here and explain what he's going to do. What are the solutions?" Fenech asked.

Fenech also claimed that Enemalta's deficit would further increase by €100-150 million if the government intended to go ahead on the proposed lower electricity prices scheduled for March 2014.

Labour MP Silvio Schembri attacked the Opposition over its lack of a coherent energy policy during the past decade. "Energy was a word which did not feature in the PN's dictionary... prior to the general election, the PN government lambasted the opposition for criticising without offering solutions. Now I expect you to come up with solutions as well."

In a riposte, Nationalist MP Censu Galea took Schembri to task on his "populist, partisan speech", saying that the Enemalta issue should not be politicized. "The corporation is not only a source of income for many workers, but also to all of the population."

Labour MP Silvio Parnis made his case for the communities of the southern part of the island, saying his electors demanded cleaner air. "In the south, there's a much greater risk of suffering from asthma. This is not a political slogan, this is reality."

Former environment minister George Pullicino said the only reason the budgetary estimates for Enemalta had to be approved was to guarantee the future employment of the corporation's employees. "The Opposition was not given the customary seven-day period to evaluate the estimates, so that they could be approved on 30 June."

At this point however, government whip Carmelo Abela raised a point of order, reminding Pullicino that at the time of the change in administration, the former government's estimates had not even been finalised.

The discussion was concluded by energy minister Konrad Mizzi, who said it was Labour's intention to close down the Marsa power station.

"If we want to move forward, Enemalta needs to move forward. It is necessary for Enemalta to have a turnaround in three years and that it balances its books.

"I appeal to the Opposition not to resort to sensationalism on the new power station. I assure you that the project will have the highest standards when it comes to safety," Mizzi said.

The estimates were approved by the House.

Emmanuel Mallia
Do MPs,MEPs and top government officials, pay their ARMS bills, or is it parmlament and government pays for them ?
@ xifajk. Aghlaq halqek, hlief hmerijiet ma tghidx. Le fi zmien il-gvern tieghek konna tajjeb, tarax!
Emmanuel Mallia
Thake a look at your Arms bill. Its the water consumption bill, not the electricty bill that needs to be lowered !
6.5 hours minghajr dawl illum tas-Sliema. Grazzi hafna lil movement tal-Progressivi u mModerati kif ukoll lil Hon Konrad Mizzi. Veru prosit, Tas-Sliema hekk iccelebrajna il-100 jum tal-Partit Progressivi u Moderati. Jien ma iniex wiehed mill ghandi xi kont pendent. Dejjem hallast u fil hin.
What a silly question on the height of the chimney by Ryan Callus. Pl has already stated that it will tear down the existing chimney. And you do not need to be a rocket scientist to know that gas power plants do not need high chimneys as these have a much lower emission than diesel or heavy fuel oil.
Toni Bezzina MP and Ryan Callus MP may not have realised that Enemalta has issued a Project Description Statement on Delimara LNG. Their fellow MP George Pullicino commented publicly on it and MEPA has held a pre-EIA "public consultation". Most of their remarks and questions do not make any sense. Their party whip should demand higher standards.
Joseph MELI
Most of the bills are unpaid because the consumer has cottoned on the fact that the vast majority of these are issued based on an ESTIMATED utilisation and as such there is no legal requirement to pay such bills,Bring back the meter reader to provide for ACTUAL billing every 2 months -or only issue bills based on such actual usage-until everyone has a Smart meter
"The corporation is not only a source of income for many workers, but also to all of the population." That is like saying the operation was a success but the patient died. Why all the discrepancies in collecting bills? Same thing with the owed taxes. This is a hardship on the population and nobody is held responsible for these non paid bills discrepancies. The PL cannot keep blaming the PN for past sins if they are not willing to change the ways of the past PN.
So we will also soon get cheap diesel and petrol made in Malta from renewable sources selling at Euro 90 cents per litre made by Applied Biofuels in their development which will be on stream by 2015...2016. That would help us all.
This sounds like a need for Privatisation of EneMalta. We here in the EU can now see the writing on the wall for this as it is the second step in the Government's Long-Term Startegy to maintain financing for Energy in Malta. And now that the French and Italians and Germans are playing for buying in to EneMalta and taking it over watch out as our Bills will telescope to new highs as the evidence across the EU demonstrates. Just take a look at the Water Bills in the UK...averaging well over Euro 250 per year and electricity bills at over Euro 180 per month. A 25% reduction please on what?
When will Tonio Fenech get it into his tick head that he is a big time loser a politician of a dime a dozen and should quit parliament and leave his seat to someone who could contribute something. He's one of the worst ministers malta ever had,a porky pie baker and a waste of space in parliament. As for the newbees to ask if the chimney is going to be as high as the the one we already have is as childish as one could ever be. PN has learned nothing and change even less.
Paul Sammut
Dan kollu hu il-wirt fallut ta` money no problem u ghaxar miljuni l-hawn u ghaxar miljuni l-hemm ta`EFA u GonziPN.