Is Malta on its 2020 targets?
A question frequently cropping up is whether Malta is on target to meet its renewable energy commitments and in the light of political and economic situations, it is essential to ask if the policies set by both public and private sectors have been correctly made.
The European Union (EU) has been a main driver in the implementation of policies to reduce GHG and to commercialise installations intended for the generation of renewable energy (RES). Energy policy is crucial to address the climate change problem, while climate change policy will itself promote sustainable energy generation and end-use. EU member states have agreed to reach collectively a 20% target renewable energy from the total energy demand. The question is: are the EU Member States on target?
Renewable energy sources (RES) have been used as a human amenity along the past centuries by various civilizations. Although many may have not thought about it, biomass, wind, heat, running water and sea currents have been used by civilisations for countless applications. Although useful, most RES are intermittent, unpredictable and dissipated over a large area. With the arrival of the industrial revolution, renewable energy sources were quickly overshadowed due to the higher reliability and greater energy concentration in fossil fuels. After decades of fossil fuel dependency, renewable sources are seen as a viable energy solution.
The environmental impacts of fossil fuels often result in financial costs to the society, in terms of human health, infrastructure and climate change. Malta’s problems with respect to renewables are unique since it could be more considered as a city rather than a country, in terms, of available land, population density and resources. To date, all petroleum products are imported and therefore renewable energy does not only mean a cleaner environment but also energy security for Malta.
The current government has been in power since 1998 and therefore it has developed very good policies and practises with regards to the environment and renewable energies. As all are aware, a general election shall be held next week and therefore a change in government is possible. Although on an EU basis the policies and directives will not change; a national political uncertainty due to changing in ministerial positions and consultants may hinder the correct application of these policies.
The hypothesis of whether Malta is on target to reach its renewable energy commitment is not straight forward. Two realistic scenarios based on data and other information currently exists.
Scenario A is based on current government policies, project implementation and private investment, indicates that Malta is on target to reach its energy target. The implementation of this action plan will help Malta exceeding its 2020 percentage share by 0.35%.
Scenario B has been completed to illustrate Malta’s trajectories with various alterations in project implementation and what happens if the main projects are not implemented. This particular scenario indicates that Malta will fail to reach its RE targets. If Malta fails to reach its targets, it could cost the country around €400M.
The study shows that Malta strongly relays on the implementation of wind energy generation which adds up to 4% of the 10% required by 2020. To date, implementation in the next years is seen near to impossible and therefore will compromise Malta’s targets. Additionally, with Malta’s ideal solar climate and surrounding sea, not enough is being done in this sector. In the next years, the government together with private investors must expand and adopt technologies to increase renewable energy generation in these areas. Malta should also attempt to reduce total consumption of energy in transport and increase energy efficiency in transport. This could be achieved by a better public transport service, better planning, increase the amount of biofuels and the backing for the purchasing of electric vehicles.
Being surrounded by a constant changing world, where economies are in turmoil and middle-east oil producers in political crisis, Malta must be ready to mitigate any negative effects and at the same time be flexible to implement alternatives to arrive at the same solution: increase renewable energy generation and reduce GHG.
Architect Julian Borg carried out his study at the Faculty of the Built Environment, at Heriot-Watt University. The course was supported by the Strategic Educational Pathways Scholarships (STEPS) and part-financed by the E.U European Social Fund.