Italy links to Malta

A new high voltage alternate current (HVAC) interconnector between Italy and Malta was inaugurated on April 9 by Italy and Malta’s prime ministers, Matteo Renzi and Joseph Muscat, respectively.

The interconnector comprises a subsea, three core cable rated at 250 MVA, and onshore cables and terminals both at Pembroke in Malta and at Marina di Ragusa in Sicily, Italy, and is capable of transmitting up to 200 MW of electrical power in either direction.

Source: European Commission

The project was initiated in July 2009 and in December 2010 a contract with Nexans Norway AS, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-voltage submarine cables, was signed. The subsea cable is 95 kilometers long, making it one of the longest HVAC submarine cables in the world.

The countries initially planned to build the interconnector by the end of 2013 but environmental concerns delayed its construction. The submarine cable was finally laid between December 2013 and March 2014 using a specialized cable-laying vessel, the Nexans Skagerrak. For most of its route, it is buried in a trench beneath the seabed while in areas where the seabed was too hard to excavate the cable is covered with a rock berm.

Nexans Norway AS, which is part of the French corporation Nexans, will also provide the subsea power cables for the Nordlink, a 700 kilometer-long, 1,400 MW high voltage direct current (HVDC) line connecting Norway to Germany.

The overall cost for the interconnector between Italy and Malta is about €154 million, co-financed by the EU’s European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR).

Renewables and Energy Union benefited

The project is expected to, at least in theory, boost Malta’s renewable energy development, providing the necessary back-up power to make up for renewable energy’s intermittent nature. The EU’s 2009/28/EC directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources calls for Malta to produce 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from 0% in 2005.

According to early projections in Malta’s National Renewable Energy Action Plan, installed solar PV was to reach a mere 28 MW by 2020, contributing only 0.7% of the national gross energy consumption or 1.4% of the electricity demand. However, solar PV’s stellar technological progress and modules’ low prices have led to around 40 MW being installed today, the majority of which are rooftop mounted residential and commercial systems. Limited space in the island nation of Malta makes rooftop installations the best option.

The second direct benefit derived from the new interconnector is its contriubtion towards the EU’s Energy Union. Based on the recent Energy Union strategy, the bloc has set a target of achieving 10% electricity interconnection by 2020. Interconnectors will help the EU to build the most integrated, competitive and sustainable common energy market in the world, allowing for energy security, low electricity prices and sustainable energy.

Until the inauguration of the interconnector to Italy last week, Malta had zero interconnection capacity with the EU electricity grids. The only other EU member having zero interconnections is Cyprus, while among the best performers is Denmark, which has a 44% level of interconnection with the European electricity market, helping it to rely extensively on power from interconnectors when its own wind turbines don’t generate enough power.