Enemalta, “the leading energy services provider in the Maltese islands”, either wants to fool the people or the environment and resources watchdog.

Whatever, the bottom line is that consumers cannot put their mind at rest that last summer’s serial blackouts will not happen again.

And they remain completely in the dark as to what the real problem is: whether overheated underground cables disrupting the distribution system or an inadequate generation capacity.

Metaphorically, perhaps literally, too, the people should better prepare to light a candle while cursing the darkness.

As households endured sizzling temperatures and threw rotten refrigerated food items away because of extended power cuts, Enemalta assured us its “current electricity generation capacity is capable of meeting the demand requirements of the country, even during periods of severe weather conditions, when consumption tends to increase”.

Late last year, Energy Minister Miriam Dalli spoke of the need to have “extra capacity available, an additional 60 megawatts, in case one of our primary sources of electricity is damaged”.

Enemalta’s executive chair, Ryan Fava seems to paint a different picture in a letter he sent to the Environment and Resources Authority. He requested an exemption from environmental impact assessment regulations when commissioning an emergency 60MW generation plant.

He almost presents a doomsday scenario: “Enemalta has strong concerns that the current dispatchable generation capacity available is insufficient to ensure security of supply, particularly in view of the electricity crisis which Malta experienced last summer, which saw an unprecedented and unforeseeable increase in electricity demand.”

Demand last July rose to 663MW, more than 14 per cent above a year earlier. Enemalta is expecting demand this summer to “rise even higher”.

One can only hope that the emergency plant will be up and running in time. The exemption was granted in January but consumers have a right to know at what stage is the process. Fava estimated that the procurement and delivery of the plant would take between six and eight months and put the “intended date” of commissioning at the end of May 2024.

Will it happen?

Dalli has the political responsibility to take the people in her confidence and put all cards on the table, warts and all. Those who run Enemalta have the administrative duty to deliver. After all, as Fava himself pointed out in his letter, “lack of supply presents a serious and real threat to the health and well-being of many people as well as to their economic welfare”.

We are definitely in a fix. Hopefully, Enemalta will succeed in having the emergency generation equipment commissioned in time. Still, one is justified wondering why it had to be last summer’s power crisis to bring the engineers and administrators at Enemalta to their senses.

The growing population was evident. The devastating effects of climate change are headline news practically on a daily basis.

Demand, particularly in summer, kept rising at about 3.5 per cent year-on-year; last July it shot up by more than 14 per cent and is expected to be even higher this summer. So, the rising trend was crystal clear. Yet, Enemalta only went into panic mode last summer, including commissioning new distribution centres and strengthening underground cables.

In conclusion, suffice to quote one paragraph from the Sofia public inquiry: “There is no room for uncertainties and gaps. At the same time, the board affirms that whoever was responsible for gaps to persist should step down forthwith. Maximum clarity should be the main line.”

Further comment would be superfluous.

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