The Malta Independent 21 January 2020, Tuesday

Enemalta assures MCESD members that power cuts ‘an exceptional case’

Karl Azzopardi Saturday, 4 January 2020, 11:10 Last update: about 17 days ago

Senior staff from Enemalta assured the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) that the power cuts experienced in the past month were an ‘exceptional case’.

The MCESD held a meeting with Enemalta officials yesterday.

Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) President Tony Zahra told the Malta Independent that the numerous power cuts that took place in Malta raised enough concern for the MHRA to call an MCESD meeting, where the most senior staff of Enemalta were present – the Chairman and CEO of Enemalta and the COOs of Distribution and Generation.

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“I think that Enemalta has been put on notice that this issue cannot go on forever and that we are not going to accept a situation where there is no continuation of power supply. On their part they have realised the problems they created with such outages and reassured us that they are doing their best to fix them.”

Zahra felt that the MCESD received some assurances through this meeting with regards to nation-wide power cuts, but concern remains about power outages in certain areas.

Such occurrences had a huge impact on the world of business and commerce due to concerns it raised about the future.

A spokesperson on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce told this newsroom that it is disappointed “by the latest unfortunate blackouts and shortcomings in relation to the power-supply in Malta and Gozo during the last weeks.  The Chamber expects that the country's significant investments in this sector over the years should not have landed the country in this predicament. The Malta Chamber is interested to learn more about Enemalta's plans and way forward following the MCESD meeting this morning, and is in fact meeting with Enemalta's Chairman and his team next week at the Chamber.  The Chamber is especially interested in Enemalta's contingency plans and how the organisation is planning to guarantee security of supply to all of the Country's operations.”

“Any interruption in the country's electricity supply disrupts the country's industries and will generate loss of business, but will also potentially lead to damage of equipment and loss of goods which depend on electricity-powered storage such as cold-stores.  Enemalta is now partially privatised and it should carry liabilities for loss of business, goods and damage to machinery as the rest of the accountable and responsible business community in Malta and Gozo.”

“Further to the above, the Malta Chamber of Commerce looks forward to the immediate finalisation of the analysis on the damage extent on the Interconnector, also the establishment of the case of such damage, while we remain hopeful to have the Interconnector up and running prior to the summer months when the energy load would be at its peak as the country cannot risk having a higher risk of further blackouts or energy disruptions during this period. A long-term contingency plan should also be drafted to analyse the country's forecasted peak demand in the years to come which includes any further capital investments which are required in order to ascertain security of supply for future needs,” the Chamber of Commerce said.

Dolores Sammut – President of Malta Employers’ Association (MEA) – said that people are angry, not just because there was a power cut, but they are worried about next month - that there might be more cuts and areas will find themselves without electricity.

“It is not a question of limiting production, but of production in general… For example, supermarkets without a generator can be affected as they would have a lot of food waste.”

Sammut also touched on the fact that the new power generation plant was established 4-5 years ago and during those 5 years thousands of people have come from abroad to live in Malta, which has definitely had an effect on the demand. She asked for a comparison between the demand 4 years ago and the demand now, but was not given an answer. Nonetheless, Enemalta said that even from last year to this year, the demand had increased by 10%.

She highlighted that Malta only has one energy supplier, and questioned how the service provider will ensure that clients get what was promised if the damage takes a long time to repair.

“Enemalta, being a monopoly in the distribution of power in Malta, has a ‘carte blanche’ so to speak because there is no competition. We, however, as clients ask and insist that the service is not interrupted. If there would be a need for further investment they should not hesitate to do so.”

Having said that, after the meeting which presented the MCESD with technical facts that they believe the media overlooked, Sammut said that she is “sure that Enemalta are doing their best.”

Deputy President of the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises GRTU Philip Fenech was also contacted by this newsroom and he said that “in the MCESD meeting we were given an explanation of what happened, and we were told that this was nothing out of the ordinary, something which happens all the time. The statistics say so.”

“The meeting was more about explaining the technicalities of what happened. It is easy to say ‘I don’t care, it hurt our businesses and that’s it’. But one has to be realistic, and understand what happened and see what to do.”

When asked whether the meeting made him feel more secure, Fenech stated that “it is not a question of being paranoid as no one can give a 100% guarantee that nothing like this will ever happen again. It’s like your car, it works everyday but one fine day it would have some problems.”

“The security we got was that what happened was out of the ordinary but obviously the damage and loss caused is still there. Even if you lose electricity for an hour the impact is very substantial”

“This is unless one has the luxury like bigger establishments that have alternative energy supplies, such as through the use of their own generator. Large outlets have these precautions but when it comes down to smaller businesses they don’t have those backups so the impact is obviously enormously felt.” Fenech gave the example of Paceville which is one of the most commercial areas in Malta. He explained that during a power outage small outlets there suffered as the larger ones with generators took in the business at the expense of the smaller ones.

Fenech said that this situation occurred during a time when the whole island was going through turbulent times, which added to the impact of the situation. “But these are not things that will happen all the time. Enemalta reassured us that they took immediate action to work out and repair the damage there, everything is in motion hopefully for us to have the backups that will give us the reassurances we need.”

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