The Malta Independent 10 December 2018, Monday

TMID Editorial: Energy - Of power cuts and high bills

Friday, 10 August 2018, 10:53 Last update: about 5 months ago

Sometimes it’s blamed on a lightning strike, on other occasions it’s because a contractor hit an underground cable. There were also times when problems with the interconnector with Sicily were mentioned.

What is sure is that power cuts are taking place quite often, with a frequency that is causing concern in households and businesses.

Electricity is a commodity that we cannot live without, and the authorities responsible for its provision and distribution – governments from a political point of view and companies from a logistic angle – should always be accountable when something goes wrong.

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Over many years, millions of euros have been invested in energy, and political controversies have been frequent – starting off with the idea to block the building of the power station at Delimara in the late 1980s, to the more recent issues with regard to the anchoring of a tanker at the mouth of Marsaxlokk Harbour.

But, in spite of so much money spent, power cuts remain the order of the day. And, while it is understandable that accidents happen and weather elements are unpredictable, it is less reassuring when the frequency of their occurring leads consumers to think that there is something else beyond the usual excuses.

This is more so when households have to endure hours on end without power supply, especially at the height of the cold in winter and heat in summer. It is unlikely that households have generators, unlike businesses and offices which are equipped with alternative means to produce power, and so power cuts hurt families more than businesses.

It is not nice to have to throw away food items which require to be kept at a given temperature in fridges and freezers. Neither is it a good feeling to have to suffer the summer heat or winter cold without air conditioners because of a power cut.

Questions do arise about whether Malta, in terms of power supply and distribution, is really equipped to deal with the economic growth that we have seen in the last years, including the rise in the number of foreigners setting up home here for work purposes and others who come here, year after year in bigger numbers, as tourists. Is the investment that has been made enough to meet with demand?

All this is happening at a time when there are growing complaints about increases in the energy bills being received by homes and businesses. The Labour government made reducing energy costs one of its main priorities in the run-up to the 2013 election which it eventually won, but in recent times many consumers have noticed that there has been a steady rise in their expenses for energy, pointing fingers at the way the bills are computed.

Explanations given by the authorities have not been satisfactory, and month after month the bills received continue to be perceived to be higher than what they should be. So far, no action has been taken by the government to bring the situation in check.

This has in fact also resulted in Malta being registered as having energy bills that are among the highest in Europe. Malta had the tenth highest household electricity prices in 2017 when compared with a total of 32 other countries in the European Union and further European area, a new publication by the EU’s statistics office Eurostat shows.

The promises made in 2013 – for energy rates to be kept low and for a reliable energy service – no longer seem to be a priority for Labour.

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