Last week Malta was named the worst country in Europe for the use of renewable energy according to a report published by Eurostat. In lieu of the current situation, Karl Azzopardi spoke to Managing Director of Electrofix Group, Joseph Schembri, to gain further insight into the factors that have landed Malta in this undesirable position. Schembri opened the company in 1998 and has seen the energy sector change drastically over the decades.
Malta has ranked lowest share of electricity from renewable sources according to recent reports from Eurostat why do you think that is?
The main reason would be the limited space we have in Malta, which means that many projects cannot be fully realised.
The easiest places for us to install renewable mechanisms are industrial zones. However, there are a lot of operating factories with old structures which do not support such mechanisms. They would require us to change the roof from asbestos to new technologies completely. To do so, such factories would have to cease ongoing operations for a long stretch. This makes it close to impossible to implement renewable energy changes.
What are the factors that led to this?
As a country, we are moving in the right direction, both educationally and culturally. People know what renewable energy is, and they are conscious of the need to go green. There is a lot of interest from people who tell us that they want to go green. Nevertheless, our most recent surveys tell us that only 25% of Maltese households use solar panels.
One possible limitation is that they do not have enough time to embark on such a project. On top of this, as I mentioned, we face space limitations from our side, which hinder us from realising our projects and making Malta greener.
Some people think that since technology is always upgrading itself, they should wait before committing to what exists on the market today. This is not quite the right way of looking at things. The past has shown us there were no drastic changes in this technology.
In fact, those who use PVs or some types of renewable energy mechanism are happy with their return on investment.
What’s needed to up our ranking?
There is a need for more incentives to promote the importance of green energy.
The government is already helping a lot, but sometimes people need a stronger push. This does not mean that the government should increase the grants to people for such an investment. On the contrary, we have advised the government to reduce them and increase the number of those who qualify. We regularly notice that when the Feed-In Tariff opens, the quota of persons who can benefit from it is filled immediately.
Making more people eligible for the funds will help spread the technology among more households and, in turn, reduce emissions further.
What can be done at a domestic level, and what can be done at a commercial/industrial level?
Space in Malta is very limited. The only relatively large industrial spaces are roofs which, as I mentioned, were not built to handle renewable energy projects. Perhaps with more help from the authorities to lighten the financial burden of structural planning in these areas would help us move forward.
On a domestic level, there are already many financial incentives people can take advantage of like the government’s Feed-In Tariff and Green bank loans. The latter is provided by almost every bank in Malta. Through it, the families end up forking out virtually no money to pay back the loan, thanks to the savings that they receive from investing in such projects. On top of this, the government’s Feed-In Tariff goes directly to the bank which automatically pays for the loan. On an industrial level, a parallel situation could also be set in motion.
Over the years, Electrofix has branched out into Renewable Energy and Fuel Station Construction and today the company is soundly structured on these 3 strong pillars. Today Electrofix employees over 100 certified/qualified technical staff, sales executives, marketing executives, engineers and management.