The Malta Independent 22 September 2020, Tuesday

Power cuts related to distribution network damage due to high temperatures

Karl Azzopardi Tuesday, 4 August 2020, 19:18 Last update: about 3 months ago

The reason behind the various power cuts reported this past week is the high temperatures, CEO of Enemalta Jason Vella said on Tuesday.

Over the past few weeks, areas across Malta have experienced power cuts for long hours during the day.

In a statement over the weekend, Enemalta had said that power cuts were a direct result of damage in a number of high tension cables that make part of the distribution system.

Enemalta had not excluded that there may be short time-periods of electrical disruption in some localities as a result of these works. In 6 days there were 28 power cuts.

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On Tuesday, CEO Jason Vella explained that Enemalta operates a distribution network that uses 1,100 substations and 5.000 km in cables. The network also has a number of other elements such as underground systems and cable joints.

"When the temperature rises, certain elements start to fail. What was abnormal was that there were a number of substantial elements that failed this time round. However, Enemalta immediately set out to fix these issues through 5 teams led by 5 engineers to assess the situation and curb the damage," he said.

With regards to multiple power cuts, he said that this came from the number of operations in the network which required the company to shut off electricity, but most cuts were short and did not last over and hour while others did not last more than 10 minutes, he said.

There were a number of clients who had cuts for over 2 hours and in such cases Enemalta immediately set out to introduce generators to the area. "The problem with this was that in order to install and uninstall them we have to switch off the power."

One phenomenon that Enemalta reported was that there was a shift of power cuts to residential areas which can be allocated to the fact that tourism zones are not as populated now due to covid-19, he said.

Enemalta received help from Transport Malta and LESA to ensure that all the works needed were done in the shortest time possible to keep up with the growing demand.

Energy minister Michael Farrugia stressed that it was not an issue of power generation from power stations or renewable energy which it has enough of, this is an issue with the distribution network which is old in certain areas.

He explained that in the last days, there was an approval so that in the coming two or three years work is done on such problematic and old networks. "This will help us be ready for any future problems and minimise any damage that could happen."

He thanked all the workers who had worked tirelessly during the past year to ensure efficient energy supply, commending them on fixing the interconnector in just half the speculated timeframe.

There are also on-going tests on substations to ensure future supply and Jason Vella appealed for patience as these systems are all underground and need time to be addressed. He explained that as of today they have not experienced any problems, but there is reported damage that engineers are working for almost 20 hours per day on.

Asked about how they will address any damages residents might have experienced, the CEO said that there is a procedure through the customer care section of Enemalta where residents can open a claim and the damages will be assessed accordingly. With regards to how people can prevent such issues, he said that OVR systems can be installed so that when there is a power cut the resulting surge does not cause damage.

Asked if there is a specific deadline as to when the situation will be solved, Vella said that having the expectation of there not being any damage is not feasible in any country. "What is important is the effort to limit the waiting time and the chance of such damage occurring again."

Asked about the cost of the damage, he said that at the moment the company's focus is on bringing back the services affected, so it does not really have an answer at the moment.

Minister Farrugia was asked about any developments on the Enemalta Montengro deal investigation to which he replied that he laid all the required documents in parliament for everyone to have access to.


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