Energy Minister Miriam Dalli has dismissed concerns that the Ukraine war could disrupt Malta’s power supply, saying the country is “not dependent” on Russian gas.
Dalli spoke to Times of Malta hours before the EU announced plans on Tuesday to wean itself off Russia, which supplies 40% of the bloc’s Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).
Malta gets around 17% of its power from the European grid through the Malta-Sicily interconnector.
“As a country, when it comes to Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), we’re not dependent on Russia,” Dalli said.
“We don’t have any contracts with Russia whatsoever. We are all the time, however, monitoring what’s happening on the market because we understand the EU has a number of agreements when it comes to Russia.
“And, so, I am insisting that we can’t be solely reliant on the interconnector because we are seeing the prices soaring and increasing all the time,” Dalli said.
Energy supply figures for 2020 show that the island generated 73.6% of its electricity from power plants, 16.7% supply from the interconnector and 9.7% from renewable sources.
The lion’s share of that energy is generated through burning LNG, Enemalta data indicates.
Company figures for 2019, the latest available, showed that 67% of all electricity sent into the Maltese grid and 71% of interconnector-imported energy was derived from gas.
Russia supplies 40% of the EU’s gas needs and the European Commission on Tuesday announced plans to cut its dependency on Russia by two-thirds this year and end its reliance on Russian supplies of fuel before 2030.
On the agreements Malta has with Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil and gas company Socar and concerns of possible problems if it becomes an explicit Russian ally, Dalli said that “even the EU has been trying to reach agreements with the country”.
Socar supplies gas to Malta through the Electrogas LNG power station.
“The agreements we have in place are that they provide us with a possibility of diversification of sources,” Dalli said.
“If we didn’t have the LNG plant we would be reliant solely and completely on the interconnector.”
A seven-year fuel-hedging agreement that sees Malta buy its LNG from Socar at a fixed price of €9.40 per unit is set to expire at the end of March. While the government has indicated it plans to freeze prices this year, it has not indicated what will happen beyond that time frame.
At the end of February, Germany announced it would be putting its controversial Nord Sream 2 pipeline on hold.
The pipeline, which has faced opposition from the US and Eastern Europe over fears it would leave the continent too dependent on Russian energy, was set to double the country’s natural gas import from Russia.
Asked if the Russia situation changed Malta’s gas pipeline plans, especially since the rest of Europe is starting to consider ways of weaning itself off LNG, Dalli said the government is still “committed to its hydrogen-ready pipeline plan”.
The crisis in Ukraine has also prompted fears of a shortage of another form of gas, LPG, that is used to fuel heaters and ovens.
Late on Tuesday, gas supplier Liquigas said that it has secured LPG supplies required to meet demand in Malta "for the foreseeable future" through the help of its Dutch shareholder SHVB Energy.
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