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February 20, 2014

Smart Meters the Subject of Unfolding Maltese Political Row



Smart meters, or the digital devices placed on homes and businesses that allow consumers and utility companies to better track energy consumption and the rates at which electricity is billed, might seem like the last sort of thing to cause political problems.

This hasn’t been the case in the U.S.

Seen by some as a plot to “spy” on Americans’ personal business, or the first shot of some UN-inspired plot to force Americans to use less energy, the installation of smart meters has gone anything but smoothly. Some regions have actually tried to ban the devices, and many consumers have complained when they’ve been asked to pay for devices they didn’t ask to be installed.

It turns out that the U.S. isn’t alone in smart meter drama, however. A political scandal unfolding in Malta is centered around smart meters. Some factions of the government are accusing other factions of being involved in a plot to steal energy: by some estimates, about 10 percent of all electricity generated by Malta’s energy interest Enemalta was “stolen” in 2012, which is estimated to have cost Maltese taxpayers about €30 million ($42.2 million).

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According to Maltese news site the Independent, both the current government and the opposition party are calling on each other to assume political responsibility for the scam, and the nation’s current energy minister is blaming the debacle on his predecessor, denying all knowledge.

“Former energy minister Tonio Fenech has categorically denied charges leveled against him yesterday morning by current energy minister Konrad Mizzi to the effect that he had known about the electricity theft racket when in office but had failed to take any action,” according to the article.

So how does one “steal” electricity from a smart meter? According to Fenech, an investigation has found evidence of tampering.

“We had a suspicion that there was a way in which they could be tampered with to slow down the recording of consumption,” said Fenech. “This, however, does not mean that I knew that there was an actual racket in progress. These are two completely different matters altogether. Suspecting there could be a potential problem and knowing of a racket are completely separate issues,” he said, noting that he would have called the police immediately had he been aware of the problem.

Fenech accused Minister Mizzi of blatantly lying to escape political liability, and indicated he will file a libel lawsuit against him. 




Edited by Alisen Downey

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