The installation of the natural gas link from the mainland to Majorca is just the first phase in solving the Balearics' energy problem, according to the Balearic College of Industrial Engineers. The College of Engineers yesterday criticised the Balearic government's recently unveiled energy plan, saying it is quite simply flawed with regards to providing a “guaranteed and quality energy supply” for the region in the near future. Juan Ignacio Frau, an expert engineer in power distribution, explained that in order to make the maximum use of the new gas link from the mainland, the Balearics' energy infrastructure needs to be vastly expanded and improved so that gas can then be pumped from Majorca to Ibiza and Minorca. The Balearic government's energy plan does not include installing new power links to Ibiza, where demand for power has risen sharply over the past decade, and Minorca for another 15 years. Frau also pointed out that the governemnt has made no mention of a much-needed third high tension cable from the Es Murterar power station in Alcudia to boost supply, in particular during the summer, to the Majorcan power grid. The engineer compared the Balearic plan with the one Madrid has devised for the Canaries, where he said the projected increase in energy consumption is far higher than in the Balearics. Over the next five years, 50 new high tension supply cables are to be installed in the Canaries and 34 substations, while in areas such as Arta, Capdepera and Santa Eulalia energy supply is still restricted. The College of Engineers believes that the Balearic government should start targeting sites which can be used to expand the region's power facilities to connect up all of the Balearic islands with the mainland. It also recommends approaching central government so that Madrid includes the islands in its national power plan, which is not going to be approved until June, so there is still time. Frau said that the ambitious and costly gas link from the mainland to Majorca, via Ibiza, is not the solution, explaining that all that will be piped into Majorca is merely going to be a more efficient power supply than the one currently used. He also warned that in a recent report from the Ministry for the Economy in Madrid, it was suggested that Madrid does not have to help finance the project, as hoped by the Balearic government. He said that the cost of laying an electricity cable between Majorca and Ibiza and the construction of a gas power station in Majorca will cost 237 million euros, more or less the same as the gas link from the mainland. Frau said the ideal solution would be to connect the Balearic power grid and then link it to the mainland. That would create a freer market and encourage greater competition between the Balearic power companies - to the consumer's benefit. What is more, such a project, would be able to secure 20 per cent financing from the European Union. The College of Engineers also presented a report on energy consumption in the Balearics which rose by 48 per cent between 1996 and 2001, 13 points above the national average, while a third of municipalities in the Balearics have seen demand for energy rise by over 50 per cent during the same period.

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