Planning Authority approves second interconnector, calls for offers being published

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 January, 2024 at 9:48 pm by Andre Camilleri

The Planning Authority has approved the permit for the development of Interconnector 2, the second submarine electricity cable between Malta and Italy.

Plans for a second interconnector between Malta and Ragusa in Sicily were filed in May 2022 having been announced in July of the year prior by Energy Minister Miriam Dalli. The proposal before the PA included trenching, cable laying, cable jointing and installation between the Enemalta132kV Maghtab Terminal Station and the near shore approach, construction of underground joint bays, a trench-less transition from onshore to offshore and the laying and protection of the submarine cable up to the median line between Maghtab, Naxxar Malta and Ragusa, Sicily.

In a statement, the Planning Authority said that “while this project may be considered a continuation or extension of the first interconnector that was commissioned in 2015, a second interconnector will facilitate the integration of large-scale indigenous renewable energy projects by providing a stable and extensive grid. The project will also cater for contingency/emergency situations such as temporary damage to the existing cable link and interruption of the LNG supply to the domestic power generation plants. The project was unanimously approved by the Board,” it said.

Interconnect Malta, a government-owned company which is entrusted with the development of major energy infrastructure projects, including the second interconnector and falls under the responsibility of the Ministry for Energy, in a statement, said: ” The conclusion of the permitting process, and the Authority’s positive review of this project, are an important step forward in the implementation of Malta’s plan for a sustainable energy sector. The proposal approved today includes the works required to lay and protect the land and subsea cable link between the Enemalta 132kV Maghtab Terminal Station up to the median line, halfway between Malta and the Italian Island of Sicily.”

Interconnect Malta said it is also collaborating with the Italian authorities to conclude the permitting processes of this project in Italian waters and on land in Sicily, it said.

The Interconnector 2 project will develop a 121-kilometre, 225 MW HVAC electrical cable interconnection including a 99-kilometre submarine cable operating at 220 kV between Malta and Sicily, Interconnect Malta said. “It will consolidate security of supply by doubling Malta’s current electricity interconnection with the European network. It will also empower increased investments in renewable energy systems by providing the necessary reserve capacity to accommodate the energy output intermittency of Malta’s growing grid-connected renewable energy sources, contributing to the country’s climate objectives, for a better quality of life.” It said that the project “may be part-funded” by the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2021-2027 of the European Union.

Prime Minister Robert Abela, posting on X (formerly known as Twitter), said: “The approval for the development of the second interconnector project is a major leap towards a sustainable energy sector. This advancement opens doors to greater investments in renewable energy, aligning with our climate goals and enhancing the quality of life for all citizens.”

Minister for Energy Miriam Dalli said that the second interconnector is a critical project in Malta’s plan to ensure the sustainability and security of Malta’s energy sector, and that “”it will increase the capacity and flexibility of the country’s electricity infrastructure, to meet the country’s future energy requirements while facilitating increased renewable energy investments, in line with our decarbonisation objectives.”

Dr Ing. Joseph Vassallo, Divisional Manager at Interconnect Malta, said that the development permits for this project culminate two years of planning and studies “that were needed to prepare the design of IC2, which will be routed at a safe distance from the first Malta-Italy Interconnector, commissioned in 2015. The new route necessitated new land and offshore surveys to investigate subsoil conditions and bathymetry. Following these surveys, in 2023 Interconnect Malta concluded the project’s front-end engineering design, to determine the specifications of the required technologies, including cables, transformers, shunt reactors, safety and protection systems and other equipment.,” Interconnect Malta said. 

AIS Environment has said that it had performed the environmental studies for this project, including the Environmental Impact Assessment. 

Dr Vassallo said that Interconnect Malta is now publishing calls for offers for the implementation of this project. “Together with the strengthening of the national grid and the installation of utility-scale battery energy storage systems, IC2 will consolidate security of supply and allow the integration of more and larger renewable energy sources for Malta.

The Nationalist Party welcomed the PA’s approval, saying the Labour government no longer considers the interconnector being the cause of disruptions when something goes wrong, but has been convinced that the PN government’s pre-2013 plan for diversification in the provision of electricity was the best way forward. 

This is confimed that between the decision to expand the power station at Delimara, which the PN described as the “monument to corruption”, and having a second interconnector, the government chose the latter.

The PN said that apart from this investment, the government should also see that the distribution network is upgraded so as not to have a repetition of the energy blackouts we had in summer.

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