China Energy News: SEP Boosts Energy Reform in Malta

The Mediterranean island of Malta is well-known for its beautiful scenery, which attracts tens of thousands of tourists from around the world. Nevertheless, Malta, which relies on tourism as its pillar industry, is facing a dilemma between development and environmental protection. As China is further deepening cooperation with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese enterprises have brought a solution for sustainable development to the island country.


On November 26, 2014, SEP, a subsidiary of SPIC, founded SEP (Malta) Holding Ltd. (SEPM) in Malta. Through active participation and flattening of overall operation mechanism, the company pushed forward four projects located in Malta in a synergistic manner and helped the country realize energy transformation.


Marsaxlokk, located in the southeast of Malta, is a popular tourist resort on the island. Delimara power station, also located here, is an import power source for the whole island.


Over a long time, the power supply of Malta has been relying mainly on the submarine cable connected with Sicily of Italy via cross-board transmission. However, due to frequent technical faults with the submarine cable, Malta often suffered from power outages. D3 Power Plant within the site of Delimara power station had just eight heavy oil-fired power generation units at the beginning of construction, with annual power generation capacity of 136.8 MW only. In 2014, the annual average time of power outage was 9.69 hours for Maltese consumers.


Stevo Mandic, who come from Serbia, has fallen in love with Malta since he travelled here as a tourist ten years before. When he came to Malta again in 2016, he was employed by SEPM as the supervisor in charge of contract and procurement at D3 Power Plant. Mandic recalled that the stacks of D3 Power Plant used to spew black smoke all day long, which kept local residents and tourists far way for fear of pollution. When he joined D3 Power Plant, an oil-to-gas conversion project was under way there, with the original heavy oil-fired units transformed to dual-fuel type units using natural gas and light oil and flue gas system upgraded accordingly. After the conversion, various environmental indicators of the units became superior to the level required by the local government. Moreover, the power plant is now able to meet the dispatching needs of the power grid rapidly, which ensures the stable supply of electricity to a great extent during the summer peak season especially. In 2017, the average power outage time of Maltese users decreased to 0.44 hours, with the optimization rate reaching 90 percent.


In the meantime, SEPM is developing a series of wind power and solar power projects with total capacity of 300 MW on and outside the island of Malta jointly with its local partner Enemalta. Among them, Marsa Roof-mounted Distributed PV Power Project, the first PV power demonstration project on the island of Malta, realized commercial operation with full capacity in the end of 2017. The two companies have also joined hands to develop projects overseas, taking the continent of Europe as the first step.


As the Malta's only state-owned power company engaged in generation, transmission, distribution and retail, Enemalta had been confronted with a number of problems such as redundant personnel, aging of most units and weak infrastructure before the transformation. After investing 100 million euros to acquire 33.3 percent shares of Enemalta, SEPM assigned several senior executives to the company and participated in its daily operation. Thanks to the injection of capital and management experience, Enemalta was able to turn around rapidly and realize successful transformation eventually with the reliability, stability and safety of the power grid enhanced substantially. Through optimization of local energy structure, the residential power tariff in Malta was reduced by 25 percent, ranking the seventh from bottom among EU member states, and the country's sovereign rating was upgraded to "A+" for the first time in 20 years.


The development achievement of SEPM was praised by Maltese Prime Minister as "a win-win model of economic and trade cooperation between Malta and China", and SEP's Malta project was selected as an excellent case of "going global" by State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) in 2016. Besides, SEPM was considered as "small investment but big influence, small scale but big potential, late comer with good experience" by Xiong Weiping, Chairman of the Supervisory Board for Key Large State-owned Enterprises. In 2017, "Optimization of Maltese Energy Structure by SEP" was included as a classic case in the Overseas Sustainable Development Report of Chinese Enterprises in 2017 jointly released by the United Nations Development Programme, Ministry of Commerce of China and SASAC.


SEPM has an international team, with its 44 employees from seven countries including China, Malta, Serbia, Macedonia, Portugal, Greece and Pakistan. After years of overseas operation, the company has established the core values featured with "trust, struggle, passion and innovation", and developed the "family culture" which made its staff from various background stick together. On the first day of every year, the company's general manager Sheng Baojie would pay a visit to the holding companies and stock participating companies together with the management team and extend New Year greetings to everyone. No matter on Chinese and foreign festivals or birthdays of the staff, everybody on the team could share and feel the warmth and joy with the company, bringing them closer to each other. 


SEPM also paid special attention to the staff training. Before the first gas-fired generation unit of D3 Power Plant was connected to the grid, the whole island of Malta was lack of experience in managing gas-fired power plant. Therefore, D3 Power Plant signed an agreement with the manufacturer of gas-fired units in order to strengthen the relevant knowledge training for management and O&M personnel.


In addition to enhancing English communication ability of Chinese staff, SEPM also provides Chinese courses for those foreign employees interested in the language. Meanwhile, the company assigns foreign staff to visit the power plants in China regularly so as to learn from SEP's production and management experience. The foreign staff of SEPM have won recognition from SPIC for their professionalism and endeavors, and two Maltese engineers among them have been granted the title of "Top 10 Outstanding Strivers" by SPIC for two consecutive years.

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