As the provision of electricity continues to cause havoc across Malta, more businesses are reporting significant losses caused by what some are describing as a crisis.

Earlier this week, spoke to a butcher and a pharmacist who explained how the frequent power cuts are having a negative effect on their business. Now, more businesses are coming forward with their stories, in what they hope may serve as a wake-up call.

André Grech

André Grech, who owns and manages Onella, a wine bar and restaurant in Naxxar, tells of repeated service outages on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, each lasting for a number of hours.

“On Wednesday alone we suffered from 3 power cuts,” he says.

The cuts on Tuesday and Wednesday arrived during service hours. On Tuesday, Mr Grech recounts that “we started the evening powerless we experienced cancellations from most of the bookings and very few clients walked in,” while “most of our clients got up and left” when the power went out on Wednesday.

He explains that the loss of power, especially when it happened for long hours at night, forced the establishment to throw away food.

“I am estimating that the loss is in the tune of €1,000.”

Michelle Muscat, who runs Restaurante La Vela in Pietà, had a similar experience.

Michelle Muscat

“We serve a lot of raw fish – we have lots of antipasti – and you just can’t take a chance with that. We simply had to throw away a lot of food, just to be safe.”

Meanwhile, an aquarium full of live lobsters also lost power, killing the crustaceans.

The problems, however, went beyond wasted food, with Ms Muscat explaining that the return of electricity brought with it a power surge which “fried” two transformers, further adding to the expense.

Ms Muscat also serves as President of the Association of Catering Establishments, which on Friday released a statement decrying the “unacceptable negative financial impact” power shortages are having on the catering industry.

She tells that her phone has been inundated with calls from restaurant owners and managers in all localities.

Particularly badly hit, she says, are those located in towns and villages which are getting ready for their parish feast, and that had therefore prepared large amounts of stock in anticipation of a blockbuster weekend.

“I have been getting calls from owners who are desperate, throwing out thousands of euros’ worth of food that they had bought specifically for what should have been a celebration.”

Making matters worse, Ms Muscat said, is that many patrons no longer carry cash with them, given the ubiquity of digital points of sale.

“So patrons come in, there is no air conditioning, no internet, their food is being prepared by the staff working in a furnace, and then, to top it off, they cannot pay!”

Asked if they agree with calls on the authorities to pay compensation to those affected by the cuts, Ms Muscat does not hesitate to agree. “Yes, we will be calling for that as well.”

While much focus has been placed on those companies dealing with food, since it is particularly sensitive to the heat, the disruption goes far beyond any particular sector, reaching even industries like manufacturing.

Aaron Azzopardi, General Manager of Delta (Malta), which specialises in the manufacture and delivery of high quality power supplies for industrial use, tells that his company, employing 130 full-timers, easily lost “tens of thousands of euro” due to the overload of the system.

Ing. Aaron Azzopardi

He explains that his factory lost power on Thursday morning, adding however that this does not seem to have been caused by the power outages affecting the rest of Malta. “The problem was a fuse in the incomer, which has an Enemalta sigil despite being in our factory.”

Ing. Azzopardi explains that this was not the first time this particular issue had cropped up, and on previous occasions, the energy distributor had been prompt in dealing with the issue, sending its agents to quickly fix it in a “15-minute job”.

However, with Enemalta’s resources operating at capacity as it deployed dozens of technicians all around the island to fix the multiple simultaneous faults, even contacting the company simply proved “impossible”.

“We couldn’t even make the report,” he says. “Customer support wasn’t working.”

After two hours of fruitless attempts, the company had to send its 130 employees home, wasting an entire day of labour costs for nothing.

Eventually, the report was made, but not without expending considerable social capital: “Through personal connections, we managed to find an employee who could put in the report for us,” he said, stressing that “this is not how things should be done” and emphasising the stress and uncertainty caused by the system’s collapse.

On Friday morning, employees turned up but the issue had not yet been fixed, with Enemalta sending engineers later in the morning to fix the problem, which indeed took just 15 minutes, says Ing. Azzopardi.

He adds that while he understands that the needs of a company like his are “undoubtedly” further down the priority list than restoring power to entire localities, he believes the service should have different teams servicing different business channels.

“You cannot just have one stream of priorities. The needs of the public infrastructure, households, and businesses are different. The economy lost tens of thousands of euros over these days because reports of faults were not even getting through, even though the fix was a simple one that hardly took any time.”

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Written By

Robert Fenech

Robert is curious about the connections that make the world work, and takes a particular interest in the confluence of economy, environment and justice. He can also be found moonlighting as a butler for his big black cat.