Renewable energy use up by 5.6%

Eurostat data indicate that just before the pandemic struck the share of energy generated using renewable sources in Malta was just below 8.5%. This marked the second lowest proportion across the EU, just above Luxembourg’s 7%, and well below the 20% average observed across the EU.

These statistics are alarming and greater efforts are needed to achieve better results. What is striking though, is that Malta’s proportion of energy generated from renewable sources has jumped from 2.9% in 2012 to 8.5% in 2019, despite the fact that energy consumption has risen greatly as the economy has doubled and the population increased substantially.

Across the EU the rise was from 16% to 20%, which means that the gap between Malta and the EU average shrunk by nearly two percentage points, or by a tenth. Moreover, in just 7 years, the increase in the use of renewables in Malta was twice that observed in all the previous years in our nation’s history of energy generation taken together. 

Malta’s proportion of energy generated from renewable sources has jumped from 2.9% in 2012 to 8.5% in 2019.

Some may associate this increase with the expansion in use of solar panels, but besides this, one must note another change. Eurostat data show that while in 2010 Malta had virtually no use of transport that used renewable sources, today our share in this sector is 8.7%, nearly the same as the EU average. Even when one looks at the share of energy from renewable sources for heating and cooling, in Malta our share at nearly 26% exceeds the EU average of 22%. Even here the growth has been impressive since 2012, with Malta’s share doubling, despite the large increase in energy demand.

A recent study by the Central Bank sheds further light on Malta’s use of renewable sources. Eurostat statistics tend to treat all energy imported through the interconnector as being generated by non-renewable sources. However, this is clearly a major simplification as in reality a considerable amount of the energy imported is generated by means of renewable sources.

The Central Bank study notes how in 2019 nearly 15% of all electricity transmitted to Malta derived from renewable sources. If one takes this into account, one can get a truer and fairer view of the environmental footprint on Malta’s electricity demand. A small country like Malta faces physical limitations when adopting renewable sources of energy, and it is inevitable that it will have to rely on foreign sources.

Considering the generation of imported electricity, the Central Bank study concludes that since 2015 Malta has always exceeded its 10% threshold for electricity being supplied from renewable sources. At 12% in 2019, we would be just 8 percentage points from the EU average, as against 13 percentage points in 2012. Instead of rising by three times as per the headline measure, in reality Malta’s use of renewable energy rose by four times over the seven years to 2019.

The Central Bank study in fact concludes that “the data show that Malta has made bolder steps in shifting its supply towards renewable energy than would be indicated by a cursory reading of statistics”. It also argues that “with further investment, Malta may soon achieve its set targets outright, at least in respect of electricity generation”.

The Governments’ recovery and resilience plan, in fact, has a strong focus on this area. Environment-related initiatives will be granted €189 million. This is about three and a half times the Government’s normal year capital spending on the environment. It seems like that despite the substantial progress in this area achieved since 2012, the coming years will see an intensification of work in this area.

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