Konrad Mizzi, Malta’s Minister for the Energy, reported that the country will have an energy mix consisting of 3% renewable energy by the end of the year. Do you think that Malta can manage to generate the same amount of renewable energy in eight months that it generated in the first eight years of its EU membership?
No. Actually, the more appropriate answer would be no, no, no, no, no. I would also throw a ‘lol’ in there somewhere, but it would be deemed highly unprofessional and childish. Just under a year ago, I wrote a blog entry regarding the situation of renewable energy in Malta and the limitations of the country in terms of reaching its mandatory 2020 energy target.
Since the above blog was published, Eurostat has since updated its data sheets to include 2012 (it takes a long time to collate the entire data sets from the EU 28, so we are always presented with data which is two years behind). The following table is an excerpt of the data presented, showing how Malta compares to the other small EU states Cyprus and Luxembourg, the newest Member State Croatia, and the top renewable energy producer Sweden:
The catch of this report is that the data for Malta for 2012 is an estimated that is based on the national data which is given to the European Commission under Regulation (EC) No 1099/2008 on energy statistics. As such, there is not even a clear indication of what percentage share of renewables Malta managed to produce in 2012, and from which sources (although Solar Energy is the main contributor).
Maltese governments have never really cared about producing renewable energy. It is true that Malta is extremely limited by its size and lack of natural resources, but they never really ever tried to engage with the international and national scientific community on the matter. There are several Maltese engineers and scientists specialising in Energy, why not expand an almost non-existent job sector and at least attempt to retain local talent?
The hard truth is that solar energy on its own will never be Malta’s way forward in renewable energy. It is too costly to install, despite the government incentives, maintenance is expensive in itself, and the energy return is not high enough. Furthermore, a 2013 Photovoltaic Barometer report states that Malta ranks 21st in European production of electricity from solar energy, and 13th in solar energy converted per capita. This figures make sense since there is a very limited amount of space where PV panels can be installed.
Unfortunately, Maltese governments tend focus on fossil fuel energy and disregard the introduction of other renewable alternatives. Previous administrations flaunted pilot studies in wind, wave and biomass energy but never saw them through, and the current government wants to construct a new gas fired power station. Fossil fuel energy provides the short term solution to Malta’s energy problems (or in this case the Labour Party’s pledge to reduce energy tariffs), ignoring long term energy commitments in the form of the EU 2020 targets.
Therefore, Konrad Mizzi’s announcement that Malta will hit 3% renewable energy production is laughable at best, unless he plans to spend a considerable proportion of public taxes to blanket the entire islands with photovoltaic cells.