Summer blackouts: with Ira Losco, in open spaces

At the time of writing multiple localities are trying to cope with night-long power cuts. In some cases, Enemalta Corporation maintenance personnel have been successful in carrying out repairs immediately, in other cases repairs took much longer. It will only get worse with these faults which have been euphemistically described by the Enemalta Press office as “network difficulties” caused by high temperatures. It will get worse as temperatures will be much higher.

The power demand has been well below the generation capacity of 830MW. The outages, we were informed, were caused by damage to the cables forming part of the distribution network as a result of the high temperatures generated. Why wasn’t this anticipated and acted upon? It is not rocket science! The upgrading of the electricity distribution network should have been a priority. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

The impacts on our families and businesses of these power cuts is substantial. They have a considerable bearing on our quality of life as they render the anticipated extremes of climate change unbearable. Facing an ambient temperature hovering around 40 degrees Celsius and higher, without the possibility to mitigate its impacts raises the inevitable questions as to whether government has its priorities right. It will get worse.  Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, in Sardinia and Sicily, temperatures of 48 degrees Celsius and higher are already a reality. Inevitably it will soon be our turn to face the music and it is already clear that we are not in any way prepared for what lies in store.

All this has a direct impact on our pockets too as whenever the blackout lasts for long hours, the contents of our refrigerators and freezers are no longer edible. They are rendered unsuitable. This is not only applicable to domestic households. It also impacts considerably the catering industry which has yet to fully recover from the Covid19 debacle.

In addition, whenever the power cut takes place during daylight hours this has an impact on the quantity of solar energy fed into the electricity grid. During a power cut, for security purposes, no energy is fed into the grid from solar panels.

Is preventive maintenance being carried out on the electricity grid? Is the promised upgrading of the electricity distribution system being seen through?

The repeated power cuts indicate that preventive maintenance is not being carried out adequately, if at all. The ever-increasing ambient temperatures are no surprise and consequently its impact on the distribution network could have been easily anticipated and planned for.

There is an additional issue. The massive development of residential units under way during the past years has not been accompanied with the corresponding upgrade in the electrical power infrastructure. The resulting simultaneous multiple power failures of the electricity grid at various points is indicative of this failure across the board.

Whatever maintenance has been done has not been adequate for the distribution system to function adequately in high temperatures. Where are the planners?

In all this there is a political responsibility to be shouldered by Energy Minister Miriam Dalli. Unfortunately, her office has been more focused on buttressing the MEP Labour candidature of Steve Ellul through multiple media events paid out of public funds than in ensuring that the real problems we face are being addressed.

There is a possible silver lining in all this. Possibly Miriam Dalli’s Ministry would celebrate her foresight and sponsor an Ira Losco online promotional campaign on the use and enjoyment of open spaces during the power blackouts! The use of open spaces during these summer blackouts could possibly make our life slightly more bearable. This would be an additional practical use for open spaces during the hot summer nights when we cannot make use of air-conditioners. Another opportunity for Losco to tap more into Dalli’s promotional budget during the summer months.

Carmel Cacopardo
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in the Malta Independent – Sunday 23 July 2023