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Call for expressions of interest in undersea electricity link

A call for expressions of interest has been issued for the laying of an electricity cable between Malta and Sicily, which is expected to increase the country's output by 225 megawatts.

The project, which is targeted for completion by the end of 2012, is expected to cost around €150 million, most of which will be covered by EU funds. It is planned that the cable landing sites will be situated on the Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq to Pembroke coast in Malta and at Marina di Ragusa in Sicily.

On the Maltese side it will be connected to the present transmission system while on the Sicilian side it will be connected to the network 18 km inshore at the Ragusa substation.

The interconnector is expected to have a sub-sea route length of 95 km and will be laid in sea depths of not more than 160 metres. According to results of previous surveys, the seabed is sandy for most of the route.

Studies into the possibility of the interconnector started in 1994, with a pre-feasibility study carried out by Electricité de France on behalf of Enemalta.

This study concluded that under the economic conditions prevailing at the time, an interconnector would not have been viable.

But a later study by Enemalta and Terna, an Italian transmission system operator (TSO) suggested that a 450 MW link, composed of two 225 MW cables, would be feasible and would offer security of supply.

Half of the cost of this feasibility study, which amounted to €400,000, was funded by the EU.

Government sources said that following the recommendations of this study, it decided to go ahead with the first phase of the project which consists of the laying of one 225 MW cable.

It will allow electricity to be imported from the European electricity market and will partially substitute the generation of electricity using imported fuels, diversifying sources of supply.

It will also result in the early closure of the Marsa power station.

Sources said the interconnector will lead to greater operating efficiency with lower environmental impact and lower costs.

With the interconnector and the closure of Marsa power station it is estimated that Malta's emissions of CO2 will be reduced by one million tons a year.

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