Enemalta warns of unplanned power cuts after interconnector is damaged at sea

The undersea cable between Ragusa in Sicily and Malta was damaged by a ship anchor, according to sources in Italy • Enemalta says interconnector was functioning at full power

Enemalta warns that there may be unplanned power cuts after the interconnector was damaged
Enemalta warns that there may be unplanned power cuts after the interconnector was damaged

Enemalta has warned of unplanned power cuts over the coming weeks after the interconnector between Sicily and Malta was damaged at sea.

The damage to the undersea cable occurred some 30km off the Sicilian coast, in international waters at around 7.30am when the interconnector was working at full load. The interconnector can deliver 200MW of electricity.

Enemalta said that an initial assessment has shown that two of the three conductors and all fibre optic lines were damaged.

It added that the damage incurred would require several weeks to be repaired and warned that during this period it will have “limited dispatch flexibility”.

The company did not elaborate on why it had limited flexibility given that there are two gas-fired power stations with a combined capacity of 358MW and emergency gasoil-operated plants that can deliver 180MW.

The company said the situation could result in “unplanned interruptions to the electricity supply in circumstances that Enemalta will have no control over”.

“At the time of the incident, the interconnector was at full load due to limitations in the capacity of the generating plants in Delimara,” Enemalta said without explaining why the power stations were subject to limited capacity.

The Singaporean-flagged oil tanker Di Matteo is believed to have dropped anchor off the Sicilian coast and damaged the interconnector. The map shows the ship's route on Monday and the red circle indicates the possible location of the damage.
The Singaporean-flagged oil tanker Di Matteo is believed to have dropped anchor off the Sicilian coast and damaged the interconnector. The map shows the ship's route on Monday and the red circle indicates the possible location of the damage.

Meanwhile, sources in Italy have told MaltaToday that the damage was very likely to have been caused by the Singapore-flagged oil tanker Di Matteo, which was sailing westwards along the southern Sicilian coast.

The ship is believed to have dropped its anchor off Ragusa and damaged the interconnector that supplies electricity from Ragusa to Malta.

In earlier comments to MaltaToday, Energy Minister Joe Mizzi had said that failure of the interconnector would automatically lead to a shutdown of the power stations not to cause damage.

However, Mizzi also blamed the interconnector damage on bad weather in Sicily, something which does not appear to be case.

Enemalta said power supply started being restored at around 10.04am with the use of emergency turbines, with priority given to particular strategic locations. At around 10.19am electricity supply was restored to Mater Dei Hospital, while the situation was back to normal across the island at around 1.10pm.

The company said it had opened a technical investigation to establish all the facts which led to this situation and apologised for any inconvenience caused.

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