Editorial | A multi-pronged approach in the energy sector

It is a fact that it is easier to control and regulate emissions from central power stations and energy generators than controlling thousands of little engines running on our roads


Achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 is a massive undertaking that will require lifestyle and economic changes that cannot be underestimated.

Part of the process will require various sectors to adopt cleaner technologies. One such change is a move towards electrification in the transport sector.

This will increase demand for electricity and as a consequence require investment in new power sources.

It is a fact that it is easier to control and regulate emissions from central power stations and energy generators than controlling thousands of little engines running on our roads.

Malta needs a holistic plan for the next 30 years that covers all aspects of this drive towards cleaner energy and carbon neutrality.

To this end, it is encouraging and positive that the Opposition has come out with its own vision for the energy sector that embraces some good ideas.

The most recent investment in the Electrogas power station and LNG terminal at Delimara enabled the island to shift to the much cleaner gas.

Beyond the allegations of corruption that have hounded the gas project – these should be thoroughly investigated and anybody involved in wrongdoing should pay the price – the Electrogas plant gave the country a robust domestic energy-generating capacity.

But it would be a mistake if the government rests on its laurels. The energy sector requires long-term planning and ongoing investment.

The major incident in December 2019 that saw the interconnector being damaged by a ship’s anchor and unusable for three months exposed the country’s vulnerability.

Government must adopt a multi-pronged approach to ensure Malta has other sources of energy to meet the expected growing demand and go for cleaner alternatives.

Natural gas was a massive improvement over heavy fuel oil but it is still a fossil fuel that produces carbon dioxide when burnt. In the future, the power stations at Delimara will have to run on hydrogen.

The technology to use hydrogen on a commercial scale in power stations is developing and a pipeline network across the EU is still being developed. But government has to plan ahead for this eventual changeover.

A second interconnector to a different location in Italy is also an important consideration to reduce the risk associated with having just one electricity connection with mainland Europe.

Government must also step up its efforts to go for floating wind turbines. This technology that has come a very long way and permits wind farms to be located far out at sea where they are less of an eyesore and inconvenience.

Wind energy from out at sea can enable Malta to achieve its renewable targets without the need to take up more precious landscape with solar farms.

But more forward thinking is required. Renewable energy is intermittent and thus cannot be relied upon to offer security of supply.

To guard against this, government must explore battery technology to store the excess energy generated by solar and wind farms for use at night and at peak times.

All this requires massive investment that runs into hundreds of millions of euro. It would be unrealistic to believe that these projects can be financed solely by the government.

European Union funds must be tapped and to this end government must ensure its applications are well prepared and can be strongly defended.

But this leader also advocates the strong participation of the private sector. The allegations linked to the Electrogas power station contract must not stifle private investment in Malta’s energy sector.

A clear and transparent process for procurement and contracting must be laid out before private investors are invited to compete thus ensuring a level playing field.

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