Enemalta’s BWSC power plant produced just 28 per cent of the country’s electricity needs last year, according to the company.
At the same time, the old Delimara power station, known as D1 and characterised by the tall chimney, generated 18 per cent of the electricity sent to the grid.
The figures were supplied by Enemalta after the Times of Malta asked for a breakdown of production by each of the company’s power plants.
Last month, the National Statistics Office released figures showing that 47 per cent of electricity produced in 2015 was supplied by the interconnector. However, while the NSO statistics showed that Enemalta’s power plants generated more than 1.2 million megawatt hours of electricity, they did not give a breakdown for the individual plants.
Calculations made by this newspaper show that, if BWSC were to be used continuously at full capacity (144MW), the plant would have been functional for 98 days in a whole year. Similarly, the Delimara 1 plant would have been used for 74 days while the interconnector would have been supplying electricity for 220 days.
The BWSC plant, like Enemalta’s other functional power stations, runs on heavy fuel oil and is being converted to gas by its Chinese owners, Shanghai Electric Power. Under the government’s energy plans, Delimara 1 will close down when the new gas power station comes on stream.
The gas plant, being built by Electrogas, will have a capacity of 200MW and the plan is to replace the interconnector as the primary source of electricity.
According to the environment permit application for BWSC’s conversion to gas, Enemalta’s plans are to use the Electrogas power station as the baseload provider, with BWSC used to meet peak demand. This has raised questions as to whether it made financial sense to sideline the interconnector.
In December 2014, then energy minister Konrad Mizzi had said that Enemalta was not obliged to buy all the electricity generated by the Chinese-controlled BWSC plant and the Electrogas plant. He had also indicated what portion of electricity Enemalta would be buying from each of its three main sources.
Dr Mizzi had said that, for the first year, Enemalta would source 30 per cent of its electricity requirements from the BWSC plant, 50 per cent from the Electrogas power station and 20 per cent from the interconnector with Sicily.
Based on the 2015 figures for energy production, this means that BWSC would continue being used as it is today while the interconnector would be relegated to third place, to fill in the loss of supply from the closure of Delimara 1.
However, Enemalta would also have spare capacity to the tune of 180MW, from what is known as the Delimara 2 plant that was commissioned in two stages: 1994 and 1999. This plant will be kept on standby to be used with diesel.
In 2015, Delimara 2 was used sparingly to generate 42,000mwh of electricity, equivalent to three per cent of the total.
A spokesman for Enemalta said the development of a new gas-fired power station and the gas conversion of BWSC were necessary to end the use of heavy fuel oil. This would lead to fully decommission and dismantle the 1953 Marsa power station, which has been retained on cold standby since March last year, and the 1992 Delimara 1 plant.
“Through this new electricity generation mix comprising new gas-fired plants, the interconnector, gasoil-fired plants on standby and grid-connected renewable energy installations, Enemalta is ending the country’s reliance on single sources or installations for increased security of supply,” he said.
'We were right', say both PN and PL
Both the Nationalist and Labour parties pounced on the calculations to argue that they proved their respective points.
PN leader Simon Busuttil tweeted that the Times of Malta figures proved that the new Electrogas power station was "completely unnecessary" as Malta "generated enough electricity to meet our demand without it."
And in a statement, the PN accused Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of being "corrupt", saying that his plan involved reducing amount of electricity purchased from the interconnector, despite it costing half as much as power purchased from the Electrogas power station.
"You've got to be corrupt to buy electricity at twice the price you can," the PN said.
But the Labour Party said the figures confirmed that the PN's energy plan would require the country to continue to generate electricity from heavy fuel oil using the BWSC and Delimara 1 plants.
"The Opposition Leader's problem is that his plan includes a power station that will no longer be there by the end of the legislature," the party said with reference to the Delimara 1 chimney.
The PN plan, Labour said, would force the PN to raise tariffs to avoid creating a 700-hour yearly electricity deficit.
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