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Watch: First gas delivered to power station - cold snap leads to record demand

EU expected to confirm that power station project is within state aid rules

Updated 11am - Added video

A tanker carrying the first consignment of gas for the Delimara power station has entered Marsaxlokk Bay and berthed alongside the floating storage platform.  

"This is a historic milestone in the realisation of the energy policy for Malta," minister Konrad Mizzi said at a press conference at windswept Delimara a couple of hours earlier.

He held the press conference with European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, who congratulated Malta for the project and for lowering tariffs and emissions, saying he was impressed by what had been achieved.

Dr Mizzi said the delivery tanker will be in Marsaxlokk Bay for some time as part of the plant's commissioning process. The first gas-generated power will be produced by Delimara III - the former BWSC plant - followed by Delimara IV, the new Siemens plant built by the Electrogas consortium. He did not say when the first units will be generated although that is expected in a couple of weeks.

Dr Mizzi said a decision by the European Commission approving the project as being in line with state aid rules is expected today. 

He said the new gas power station was part of a process which was seeing lower energy prices, lower emissions and cleaner energy. The government, he had, had also invested heavily in power distribution and Enemalta was now in the black. 

Enemalta officials explained that the delivery tanker will berth alongside the floating LNG storage facility and the gas will be cooled down and transferred from the delivery ship. After further checks, the gas will be pumped to the power station, which will start producing the electricity.

Enemalta confirmed earlier that cold weather forced electricity demand to an all-time high over the past few days as people resorted to using air conditioners and electric heaters to warm their homes.

A spokesman for Enemalta, the national energy supplier, said that the company registered a new seasonal peak load on Monday evening. A high of 410MW was reached at about 7pm.

“Malta has never reached such levels of electricity consumption during the same season in previous years,” the company said. The previous winter peak was 402MW in February 2005.

The spokesman said the winter peak was now nearing the overall all-time peak of 438MW, which was recorded in July 2015.

The cold weather has wreaked havoc across Europe, leading to deaths in some countries. While Malta cannot be compared to countries hit by snow and sub-zero temperatures, mercury levels here have gone as low as 5C over the past few days.

The Meteorological Office at Malta International Airport is forecasting higher temperatures for the next few days, with the lowest today expected to reach 9C. This winter’s weather is in stark contrast to last year’s, when the island practically had an extended summer.

Enemalta has teams of technicians on standby at all times to respond to customers’ requests

The Enemalta spokesman said cold temperatures encouraged more customers to stay indoors and make use of household electrical equipment such as electric heaters and air conditioners.

“This has led to an increase in electricity demand, especially when compared to the same week of the previous year. A similar scenario was registered two years ago during the 2014 festive season, when Malta was also affected by very cold weather,” he recalled.

Replying to questions over reports of electricity outages in some localities, the company said there were no major disruptions affecting “entire localities or large areas”. However, it said localised outages did occur as a result of storm damage and overloading.

Residents in different localities complained of blackouts tp this newspaper, including those in Luzju Street, Sliema, where, they said, electricity had shut off at about 7pm yesterday for the sixth day running. A resident said the electricity supply would be suspended for a couple of hours as Enemalta employees tried to sort matters out.

The Enemalta spokesman, without referring to that road in particular, said that, as demand grew, Enemalta had experienced an increase in the isolated cases of “supply difficulties due to localised faults, storm damages or overloading of the local electricity network”.

He said overloading triggered the company’s protection systems that shut down electricity to avoid damaging the network, substations and residential connections.

The company was constantly monitoring customers’ electricity demand to ensure the country was adequately served, he added.

“Enemalta has teams of technicians on standby at all times to respond to customers’ requests for assistance and swiftly resolve network difficulties.

“As soon as the cold weather was forecast, the company dispatched additional teams to prepare for the expected rise in electricity consumption and the resulting increase in customers requiring technical assistance,” the spokesman said.

He pointed out that where technically possible, priority was given to vulnerable customers, such as elderly people. 

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