Creating a Renewable Energy Island

Fact: Climate change is one of the most unprecedented challenges of our time. But if we really want to reach our targets of decarbonizing our economy fully by the year 2050, we need to start mitigating this challenge now. We are living in a world where energy and climate change are inextricably intertwined. Renewable energy sources have a vital role to play, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the combustion of fossil fuels. When discussing an economy that doesn’t pollute, we’re talking about a better quality of life for our citizens, free from excessive pressures on our environment and health. 

In the past years Malta has made a massive leap from heavy fuel oil as a main source of energy to LNG, decreasing the carbon dioxide emission factor from 0.88kg CO2 to 0.38kg C02 which resulted in less than 60% GHG emissions. Despite this leap, we can still do much more on renewables. The only way we can achieve this is if we work together as a nation; government, citizens and industry alike, towards energy efficiency and clean energy. 

Upon closer examination, Malta’ energy and electricity systems have changed drastically these past years. In 2011, Renewable Energy contributed to only 0.38% of total country’s energy consumption. Since then, the Government has investigated all technically and economically viable renewable energy sources, taking into account all relevant circumstances affecting the deployment of renewable energy. Looking into our current energy landscape today: Malta has 200MW that are being generated from renewables, we get 200MW of electricity from the interconnector with mainland Europe and we produce around 250MW megawatts of energy from LNG. But this is not always been the case.  

Malta’ energy and electricity systems have changed drastically these past years.

Globally, photovoltaic (PV) technology has exceeded its expectations for the number of envisaged installations, and this is also the case for Malta. Based on the National Statistics Office, in 2021 alone, a total of 1,600 Kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable energy were estimated to have been harvested from grid-connected PV systems. This positive leap has been backed by allocated support to new solar PV installations which are connected to the grid to help investors in the residential and non-residential sectors to overcome existing cost barriers. These annual government schemes, taking the form of operating aid and grants on capital investments are proof that the islands have seen a significant increase in the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources.

We have seen the optimization of solar energy as a resource, particularly in the last few years where the uptake and installation of such technology was at its highest. From last March to date for the residential and domestic sector a total of 2,000 beneficiaries have benefited from the different grants which the government has launched; ranging from a new photovoltaic system to a battery storage system coupled with a hybrid invertor as well as a combination of the different options. Meanwhile, the Feed in Tariff scheme from 1kWp but less 40kWp, the full allocation of 8MW were fully taken up till end of 2021 and in just the first month of 2022, the Regulator has processed 85 applications for this Feed in Tariff scheme.

This annually accounts for nearly 10% of the overall electricity generated by the country, saving 378 gC02/kWh. Such schemes have also led to a shift in engagement, awareness as well as in demand for such technologies which has brought about significant advancements in the energy sector in Malta.

In 2021 alone, a total of 1,600 kWh of renewable energy were estimated to have been harvested from grid-connected PV systems.

The effectiveness of such ongoing grant schemes can also be seen in the purchase of Solar Water Heaters (SWH), Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWH) and Air-to-Air heat pumps by households where eligible applicants are granted 50% of eligible costs. From last year, to date, close to 700 families have applied for the SWH and HPWH grants, reflecting 1.21 GWh in energy savings on the country. This uptake is more than double what had been registered in the previous year. Additionally, there were also interested households who opted on taking up a higher FIT for a 20-year period without taking a grant. This shows the significant advancement that the country has made and is still doing in the sector of renewables.

From March of 2021, the government has launched a total of 55MW which would be able to supply 20,000 households in a single year. This comes at a massive capacity of more than 8MW for households, with an investment of more than Eur 9M while also extending the existing households on a 20-year period. Meanwhile, the Government also made sure to invest in medium to large scale projects with an additional capacity of 47MW with a total investment of Eur 76M for medium to large scale investment (40kW-1MW+). This is the largest level of commitment which Malta has ever seen in the history of renewable energy, and it goes to show the government’s commitment towards decarbonisation.

In line with the national vision for Malta to increase its energy efficiency and decrease its dependency on polluting sources of energy, the Maltese government is planning long-term by launching the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and the Long-Term Renovation Strategy (LTRS), both of which have targets leading up to 2050. Through the implementation of the LCDS, the country is estimated to increase its RES in the grid mix from 8% in 2020 to 22% by 2050. As part of the Fit for 55 package, Malta has committed to an 11.5% RES target by 2030. Currently Malta is on track to achieve this as we are at an estimated at 10.71% and will keep on working closely to residents and investors to ensure that we achieve more ambitious targets

This steady incline in renewable energy investment reflects the government’s strategic planning to reduce its carbon emissions in a staggered approach, yet with great ambition by primarily shifting towards a greener, more circular economy and targeting the issues at source. With the overarching priority to safeguard the health and wellbeing of Maltese citizens, continuing to invest in energy efficiency is most definitely the way forward in terms of renewables. The momentum created on renewables for competitiveness, growth and jobs in Malta must continue. With a resilient and prepared energy sector and climate targets powered by renewables, our country will succeed in creating a renewable energy island.

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