Reaching Malta’s Eu2020 Energy Targets Will Require 'Disproportionate' Effort - EWA

 The 2020 energy targets set by the European Union will be harder for Malta to achieve than they will be for other European member states, and will require a ‘disproportionate effort’ from Malta’s end, according to Energy and Water Agency chief executive officer Daniel Azzopardi.

“Malta plans to reach its EU2020 energy target of reaching 10 per cent of energy production from renewable sources. Reaching our target will be quite expensive, and requires a disproportionate effort when compared to other member states that benefit from natural renewable energy resources such as biomass, wind and hydro,” Mr Azzopardi told this newspaper. “Malta is tapping all feasible renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy and biofuels. In fact, we went beyond the 4.5 per cent interim target for the years 2015-2016, achieving 5 per cent by the end of 2015. But our heavy reliance on photovoltaic solar panels is a challenge. This technology is still relatively expensive, requiring government support, and it will cost Malta around €250 million to reach our PV target for 2020. Going forward, another major challenge is the ever-increasing energy demand resulting from rapid economic growth. This could dilute some of the efforts in the renewable sector.”

The strategy’s legally-binding energy targets are meant to achieve 20 per cent renewable energy consumption across the EU. Whilst different renewable targets were assigned to each member state, Mr Azzopardi said, the way they were assigned did not take into account the resources available to each country. This means that disproportionate targets were set for small countries like Malta and Luxembourg, which have limited space for land-intensive energy production, and lack sources such as geothermal energy or extensive forests. Other large European countries, by contrast, are able to operate large-scale solar and wind energy installations with little or no government support.

Failure to reach the 2020 target could have significant consequences – failing to implement the Directive on Renewable Energy Targets is a breach of EU law, which could lead to infringement proceedings against Malta. “Should Malta fail to reach its renewable target by 2020, it would be in breach of the relevant Directive, making it subject to possible action by the European Commission,” Mr Azzopardi said.

“However, a country can avail of other options should it foresee a deficit in meeting its target.  These include the use of statistical transfers, a means allowed under the Directive where one member state can buy renewable energy production from another. Luxembourg has already chosen to use this option. Besides, the revised National Renewable Energy Action Plan, which covers the period 2015-2020, provides a clear route for Malta to meet its 2020 target.” 

When contacted by this newspaper for comments, the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change commented that Malta needed to focus more on the opportunities that such economic principles provide rather than fearing any constraints that such a transition could require. “The energy sector is not only the backbone of our society but is also acknowledged as one of the driving forces to reach environmental objectives. This is especially so, now that we are moving towards a resilient and low-carbon economy, driven by renewable rather than fossil fuel resources. Thus whilst the energy sector is poised to continue to foster socio-economic growth locally, it will also be a driver of growth in green jobs across most of our economic sectors.”

Looking ahead, the renewable energy targets for the year 2030 will adopt a bottom-up approach – an improvement on the way the 2020 targets were adopted. This method, agreed upon between heads of state in the European Council, will allow Malta more flexibility in reaching its renewable targets in a cost-effective way while keeping commitments already made by the Prime Minister. “What is clear in the 2030 targets is that each Member State will retain a significant degree of flexibility, even during implementation, as long as the concerted effort of the EU reaches the overall goal of at least 27 per cent renewable energy consumption,” Mr Azzopardi said.

“The Energy Ministry and the Energy and Water Agency in cooperation with relevant stakeholders and Ministries, are developing a holistic national energy and climate plan which takes stock of current energy demand, projects future developments in the energy sector, and proposes cost-effective measures to be implemented over the period 2020-2030.  The plan will take into account Malta’s specificities and come up with tailor-made solutions to support sustainable growth. It will be presented to the Commission in 2018, and will be used to guide Malta to achieve its set 2030 goals.”

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