Editorial: The lights are on but nobody is at home

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Fairy lights, festa lights, Christmas lights and shops and offices fully lit even when closed. You’ll struggle to find complete darkness in Malta unless it’s a powercut. What’s hardly surprising is Malta scored as the lowest country in Europe for the use of renewable energy according to a Eurostat report this week. How can it be Malta enjoys around 3,000 hours of sunshine per year (also one of the highest in Europe) and yet one of the worst for solar use? Try and fathom that logic. Of course, lighting is just one aspect of “renewable energy”, but why aren’t we utilising this fabulous natural resource? What’s more, unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we have been awarded this accolade.

Malta may just scrape through its commitment to meet targets to have 10% of its energy consumption from renewable sources. However, this will probably be achieved through “statistical transfers”, an accounting procedure that transfers one country’s unused renewable energy to another. According to the draft National Energy and Climate Plan setting out Malta’s objections for energy for 2030, the island is only expected to meet its targets through both indigenous sources and statistical transfers.

The same report says that by 2040, apartments and maisonettes are anticipated to form almost 70% of Malta’s building stock. And it also claims there is “waning interest” in investment in renewable energy sources because of other investment opportunities “being prioritised at a time of rapid economic growth, such as real estate and various business ventures”.

It also highlights that wind energy projects, both onshore and offshore, cannot be successfully implemented in Malta due to the lack of near-shore coastal areas and reefs with depths of less than 50 metres, and conflicting uses for these zones because of Malta’s weighting on tourism, maritime and shipping activities. The report notes that deep offshore wind energy potential, using floating platforms, also remains in its infancy. This, combined with the associated high capital investment costs, implies that “floating offshore wind does not constitute a viable short- or medium-term option for Malta”.

The notion of statistical transfers was introduced in the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC), which under Article 6 makes it possible for the EU member states to agree to statistically transfer a specified amount of energy from renewable sources from one member state to another.

Last year, the Lithuania’s Minister of Energy Žygimantas Vaičiūnas and Luxembourg’s Minister for Energy Claude Turmes signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between the two countries in the field of renewable energy.  These were the first countries in the EU to prove that we can successfully share progress in renewable energy to achieve national and European goals. Cooperation like this is essential and meaningful for the entire EU, setting increasingly ambitious climate targets and the countries themselves.

So, is the resolve in finding a statistical transfers partnership as soon as, or will we find a way to up the ante in time? Over the last 30 years we have seen promise after promise for resolve. We can only hope now is the time for less talk, and more action.

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