Enemalta is paying an undisclosed sum of money, possibly running into tens of thousands of euros a day, to Shanghai Electric to use the BWSC plant in Delimara, the Times of Malta is informed.
Although the State energy company would not say how much it is paying Shanghai Electric to keep using the BWSC plant, the most modern and efficient power plant so far, this newspaper is informed that the charge is incurred irrespective of how much Enemalta uses the turbines.
Asked whether Enemalta was paying more than €40,000 a day, a spokesman declined to comment saying it was commercially sensitive information.
“Enemalta plc is engaged in a commercial procedure with different entities to acquire the electricity required for its services through different sources connected to the Maltese network,” he said.
“The company is not authorised to provide details about its commercial relationship with specific suppliers and service providers, since such disclosure would amount to the provision of commercially sensitive information on other entities,” he added.
Earlier this month, Enemalta said that despite the plant having been sold to Shanghai Electric for €100 million in December 2014, it had retaken possession of the facility until the conversion of the turbines into gas was completed.
“We have temporarily assumed responsibility for the operation of the plant in Delimara acting as a reasonable and prudent operator,” Enemalta said. The completion of the conversion exercise is expected to last 12 months.
Apart from buying 90 per cent of the BWSC plant, Shanghai Electric also entered into a commitment to make a further €70 million investment to convert the eight diesel turbines to work on LNG. However, since the gas project has now been delayed and work has just started on the first four turbines to be converted, Enemalta is ‘renting’ out the other four turbines generating electricity through the use of heavy fuel oil.
Enemalta sources said that while the Chinese were handling the conversion of turbines one to four, the State company was paying for the use of turbines five to eight. It is not yet known whether the fee paid by Enemalta includes the cost of the electricity generated. Senior Enemalta officials said that the plant was currently generating little electricity, because the bulk of the demand was coming from the interconnector.
“Since Enemalta is buying most of its electricity through the interconnector at very cheap prices, the four turbines at the BWSC plant are not very busy,” the officials said.
They confirmed that the new Chinese owners had complained of excess staff at the BWSC plant, meaning fewer employees were needed. “So far, about 60 Enemalta staff members were manning the BWSC plant. However, many are now being transferred to government departments, because the Chinese want fewer people,” the sources said.
“Most of the excess staff members are now being assigned to work in other government departments, including Transport Malta, Ta’ Qali Park and Villa Francia.”
After the Chinese bought a 33 per cent stake in Enemalta, all employees were being transferred to a new government company called Engineering Resources Ltd. Enemalta hires the staff it requires from the State entity in a bid to cut its wage bill.
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