Rhein on Energy and Climate

Malta is among the very few EU countries whose energy supply is 100% based on fossil sources, essentially oil. No wonder that its per capita emissions of C02 are unacceptably high for a country situated in Europe’s southern sun-belt. With 7 tons annually it exceeds France’s output!

This situation is not sustainable. Oil prices are bound to stay at a level of >$ 100 /b. This will put increasing strains for industries, services and consumers alike and hamper its long-term competitiveness.
Under pending EU legislation Malta will have to cut its C02 emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020.

Malta therefore needs to adopt and implement an effective strategy how to substantially cut its emissions. It should tackle both the demand and supply side and take on board recent experience in countries like Spain, Greece or Norway.

On the demand side, the government should abolish all direct and indirect subsidies for fossil energy. Prices for gasoline, fuel, electricity and also water must fully reflect the market prices for oil and gas.
In addition, the government should establish standards for heating and cooling temperatures in public buildings, including schools and universities, but also for hotels and commercial buildings, e.g. not below 26° in summer and above 21° in winter, following a recent Spanish decree.
It should ban the sale of conventional fluorescent lamps at the earliest possible date, say by 2012.
It should raise the level of automobile taxation and use the proceeds for subsidising and improving the quality of public bus service.
Last not least, it should make the installation of solar heating panels mandatory on all new or restored buildings.

On the supply side, the country lacks the space for large-scale on-shore wind parks. But it disposes of an almost unlimited potential for floating wind turbines around its shores.
Thanks to recent technological breakthroughs achieved in Norway there is, indeed, a good prospect for Malta becoming able to cover up to 50 percent of its power requirements through off-shore wind turbines, say by 2025.
Three Norwegian companies (Sway, Statoil-Hydro and Lyse) are in the process of developing prototypes for this emerging technology. The basic idea is to fix big rotors to 200 m high floating towers, half of which below the water surface to guarantee stability.
Malta could easily establish several wind parks around its coastline, off the shipping lines at the horizon of 2025.
To this end, it should prepare the necessary pre-feasibility studies (wind measures, site definitions, cable connections) and tender for a pilot scheme, once the Norwegians have produced sufficiently positive results.
For off-shore wind parks to take off, the government should prepare legislation offering private investors attractive feed-in tariffs, say € 0.10 cents/kWh, drawing on successful experience in Spain and Germany.

Whatever these prospects, Malta will not be become self-sufficient with sustainable energy. It should therefore connect to the Italian electricity grid as a matter of priority. Italy has decided to return to nuclear; it also disposes of much wider possibilities for the generation of renewable power through hydro, geothermal, wind and solar installations. Malta should therefore enter into a deal with ENEL for its base load power supply. That seems the most rational way to comply with the EU targets for 2020: reduction of C02 emissions by 20 percent and 20 percent of supply from renewable sources.

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