As both local and Chinese dailies were flooded with PR from both the Maltese and the Chinese government on the day marking the 50th anniversary of Malta’s relationship with China, one thread about an ‘energy storage’ project in Xewkija, Gozo, stuck out.
On Monday, an article in SHINE (a digital publication by Shanghai Daily, a Chinese state-owned media outlet) referred to an energy storage project in Gozo linked with Malta’s power grid by the end of 2021.
While the project’s description on Shanghai Power’s website is relatively vague, the project seems to envisage “onshore PV (photovoltaic technology) and offshore floating wind power” in its stated goal of turning Gozo into the ‘first, fully carbon-neutral island in the EU’.
The project is spearheaded by a company called International Renewable Energy Development Ltd, a subsidiary of a holdings company owned by BWSC power station (re-branded as “Delimara 3”) owners Shanghai Electric Power, through a tender issued by Enemalta, on 29 July 2021.
Shanghai Electric Power also owns a significant stake in Enemalta after it bought a third of Enemalta’s stakes in 2013.
In spite of the multiple references in Chinese media, the Maltese government did not issue any official statements on the energy storage project, failing to mention it altogether, even though reports in China state that it was finished at the end of last year.
In contrast, the Chinese government’s outlets have repeatedly referred to it as a step in its plans to turn Gozo into a ‘Zero Carbon Island Project’. Enemalta’s website does not list the investment, either.
In fact, the last traceable reference to Shanghai Electric in government press releases issued through the Department of Information dates back to November 2019, when the government first announced the Montenegro wind farm project. There are no recent references to International Renewable Energy Development Ltd.
The Mozura connection
While the government had made a whole show out of what it described as Malta’s first foreign investment in an offshore wind farm, an investigation by The Shift would expose the corruption behind the deal just four months later. The deal was originally signed by disgraced former energy minister Konrad Mizzi in 2015, with the involvement of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his former chief of staff, Keith Schembri.
Further investigations by the press revealed the project also involved 17 Black, the offshore company owned by Yorgen Fenech who is accused of commissioning the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017.
Cifidex, a company whose beneficial owner was SOCAR representative Turab Musayev, had borrowed funds from 17 Black, sold project shares to Enemalta, and then paid back 17 Black with an additional €4.6 million “profit share” on top of it.
Musayev had levelled a SLAPP threat against five independent media outlets in Malta, including The Shift, for mentioning him in connection with the scandal. The Shift had reported a major discrepancy between the €3.5 million Enemalta said it had paid for the acquisition of the wind farm and the €10.3 million actually paid, in an investigation conducted in collaboration with Montenegro’s largest daily newspaper, DAN.
Enemalta would later transfer the concession to a China-dominated consortium in which Enemalta was only a minority shareholder, retaining just 10% in Mozura Wind Park Ltd. The rest, 90%, was transferred to Malta Montenegro Wind Power JV Ltd registered in Malta and majority-owned by International Renewable Energy Development Ltd (controlled by Shanghai Electric (66%)).
As a result of this latest transfer, the Mozura wind farm project, originally touted in Montenegro as an investment from an EU member state, is effectively controlled by China and is in fact paraded by the Chinese government as an example of China’s Belt and Road initiative.
Montenegrin citizens are bound to buy electricity from Mozura at three times the price of normal electricity – just as Mizzi’s Electrogas deal in Malta bound the country to buy LNG from Azerbaijani State-owned company SOCAR for 18 years.