Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 October, 2022 at 3:15 pm by Andre Camilleri
“The Government is allocating 10% of its 2023 Budget to ensure stable energy bills and fuel prices because we do not want families and businesses to relive the economic hardships of the 2008 energy price hikes,” Energy Minister Miriam Dalli said on Wednesday.
Dalli addressed a press conference on Wednesday explaining the Government’s Budget 2023 energy initiatives during a visit to L-Andrijiet, in the limits of Rabat, whereby a major project was completed to improve the quality of water, wastewater and electricity services for 120 families in this area.
The Minister explained that for this year and next year, the Government will be allocating around €1 billion to cushion the impact of international energy prices on water and energy bills and fuel prices, ensuring stability in these critical costs for families and businesses. She stated that the Government is investing such a significant share of its public expenditure because it has always recognised the importance of stability in energy bills for economic prosperity and a better quality of life.
Between 2008 and 2012, Malta experienced the consequences of rising energy costs that other countries are facing today, when the Government had raised tariffs in response to surging international oil prices. This increase in water and electricity bills meant that families and businesses had to fork out an additional €100 million. As a result, the economy floundered, unemployment increased and families suffered inflation and other hardships.
“We want to continue securing a strong economy and a better quality of life. Certainty and stability are not just buzzwords for this Government. They are the policies that we wholeheartedly implement every day, through all our decisions,” the Minister said.
To achieve energy price stability, the Government is not only allocating millions in support. It is tackling this international crisis through a multi-pronged approach. During the last nine years, the Government invested in a diversified energy mix, which it is now optimising to reduce the impact of the cost of imported electricity.
“Had Malta relied on the Interconnector only, today we would be here to announce higher energy bills. Meanwhile, we also secured exemptions from certain EU measures, such as mandatory gas reductions, after we convinced the European Commission that such actions were not going to have the desired positive impacts on families in Malta,” stated Minister Dalli.
€5.5 million for better water, electricity services at L-Andrijiet
Despite the significant increase in government expenditure to maintain stable water and energy bills, Government is still investing heavily in water, wastewater, and electricity infrastructure upgrades to improve quality of service. At L-Andrijiet, the Water Services Corporation utilised EU funds to implement a €4.7 million project to connect this isolated rural area to the national wastewater network and upgrade its potable water pipelines. For decades, 120 families in this community relied on cesspits, which needed to be regularly emptied by sewage vacuum trucks. Often they overflowed, causing health and environmental consequences. Meanwhile, Enemalta also invested €800,000 in this area, replacing aerial lines with underground high voltage cables to improve service reliability, especially during strong winds and storms.
€52 million distribution network upgrades in 2023
The infrastructural investment in the water and energy utilities will continue in 2023. Water Services Corporation is planning to conclude several major projects adding up to €37 million, including new water pipelines and sewers. Enemalta is continuing its six-year €90 million electricity grid reinforcement project, whereby in 2023, it will be implementing €15 million in network upgrades in several localities.
€28 million schemes for grid-connected renewables
Minister Dalli also explained how the 2023 Budget will also take us another step closer to the 2050 decarbonisation targets, as it allocates €28 million in schemes to encourage households and businesses to invest in grid-connected renewable energy systems, such as rooftop photovoltaic panels. “As I often made clear at EU Energy Council meetings, we should not let the current international crisis dampen our resolve to reach our environmental goals. Contrarily, these challenges should encourage us to work harder and allocate more resources to attain our climate and sustainability objectives even earlier,” she explained.
Encouraging offshore renewable energy systems
The 2023 Budget also affirms the Government’s commitment to adopt offshore renewable energy technologies. Next year the Government is inviting the private sector to invest in renewable energy systems in Maltese waters. It will also continue working on the studies and permits required for the development of the second Malta-Italy electricity interconnector, a €160 million investment to augment the country’s security of supply, while providing the required spare capacity and resilience to meet fluctuations from existing and future wind and solar energy sources.
Sandro Craus, the mayor of Rabat, Karl Cilia, the Water Services Corporation CEO and Jonathan Cardona, the CEO of Enemalta plc, accompanied the Minister during this visit, as they met some of the residents benefitting from the L-Andrijiet water and energy projects.