Energy Minister Miriam Dalli had Enemalta issue ‘emergency’ direct orders last week for industrial generators being used for the filming of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator 2 to be sent to Zurrieq to provide temporary power for her constituents to celebrate the village feast of Tal-Karmnu.
Dalli is currently facing calls for her resignation over the unprecedented failures of the electricity distribution system over the last week.
The Shift is informed that the beneficiary of Miriam Dalli’s manoeuvre was Nexos Lighting & Video, a company that frequently receives government direct orders and contracts for Labour Party events.
Sources at Enemalta said that Dalli was under immense pressure from her Zurrieq constituency, as the village was one of the main areas suffering long and repeated power cuts that coincided with the village feast.
“The Minister was lucky that Nexos’ industrial power generators being used for the Gladiator 2 set suddenly became available when filming came to an abrupt halt because of the ongoing Hollywood strike. The Minister lost no time having them deployed to Zurrieq at a cost running into tens of thousands of euros a day,” a senior Enemalta officer told The Shift.
Asked for an explanation of how Zurrieq in particular was chosen for the act of generosity when several other localities in the south had been left without power for long stretches, the minister’s spokesperson did not explain. The spokesperson did confirm the generators were used in Dingli, Msida, Zabbar, Zebbug and Mellieha.
Population growth and a lack of upgrades appear to be main reasons behind the failing distribution system. Enemalta engineers told The Shift on condition of anonymity that both the Minister and CEO Jonathan Cardona, had been warned repeatedly of this coming situation.
“You cannot increase the demand without any plan to upgrade the distribution system,” an experienced engineer told The Shift.
Some of the hardest hit localities in Cottonera are those where there has been no Enemalta investment for years, with their cables and distribution systems dating back to the days of the British era.
“It is not true that the cables were damaged by the high atmospheric temperatures. What happened is that once more people switched on their equipment, the cables could not take the load because they are not made for such a volume.”
All of this is related to the unplanned rise in population and rampant construction, experts insisted.
“If instead of traditional houses you have allowed the construction of 80 flats where a single dwelling once stood, it is obvious that you need to upgrade the infrastructure. However, this was not done,” another engineer said.
They also insisted that the situation would most probably persist.
“Electricity in underground cables is akin to water in a pipe. Constrictions due to ageing, damage, subsidence of road pressure points due to heavy vehicles and other factors cause extreme pressure and damage to the cables,” they said.
“As the electricity supply runs in the damaged portion, it overheats and ignites, resulting in failure.”
“The supply network is not designed to cater for such kVA (amperage) due to rampant construction. The worst is that the network is failing from multiple points after each and every repair, as the weakest point in the network fails, like the weakest link in the chain. A real live domino effect,” they explained.