The energy sector: 12 months on

 During this year, we encouraged households and businesses to invest more in renewable energy

Just a few weeks ago, the Government presented its Budget for next year. A budget built on measures and policies that seek to ensure a better future for our children. Sustainability, which is one of the core functions of the Ministry I lead, is being given a boost across all portfolios as we pave the way for a decarbonised Malta by 2050.

It takes a coordinated effort to reach the targets we have set upon ourselves and to meet the European Commission’s Green Deal ambition. The Ministry for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development alone has been voted a €270 million package, covering 40 measures in these sectors. These funds seek to improve people’s lives, to support businesses and to provide peace of mind.

Malta is not excluded from the rest of the world and what is happening in Europe and across other continents impacts us as well. During my mandate at the European Parliament I could see and feel the different pressures that different countries face, which made me push more the argument that one-size policies intended to fit all do not work. More so, for an island state like Malta where we do not have any natural resources, and for the majority of cases, we depend on imports.

This leads me to the situation of spiralling energy prices the world has been experiencing over the past few months. This is happening at a very sensitive time, as the world economy is trying to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic. This supply-demand conundrum was further exacerbated by European gas reserves reaching a record low, whilst the demand for LNG in Asian markets has spiked. This resulted in a situation where prices in Europe are rapidly rising too.

Hence why retaining stable energy prices in Malta is our utmost priority. As our families are emerging from the pandemic, as our economy is recovering, transferring this burden onto our families and businesses is a no go for us. It would have dealt a major blow. Something this Government is not prepared to do.

Our energy mix gives us more peace of mind in terms of supply. Our policy as a Labour government is to retain price stability and seek solutions to improve on our present systems. We are working hard to achieve this whilst residents in Belgium have experienced a 21% increase in electricity prices; Romanians face a 48% increase and in Italy, electricity prices will rise by 30%, for example.

We managed to retain amongst the lowest bills in the European Union – and the cheapest in the EuroZone. We are doing this because we are sensitive to the realities of our families and businesses and we deliver on what we pledge. My vision for the energy sector is a forward-looking one. This is a very important sector that needs continuous investment. We will not abandon this sector as was the case under the Nationalist administrations. Indeed, on paper, they had promised a lot, but in reality, very little was implemented.

To date, renewable sources provide 200MW of energy. During this year, we encouraged households and businesses to invest more in renewable energy. We allocated a total of

51MW available in terms of capacity allocation of renewables for this year alone. We have achieved, and exceeded, our national renewable energy system share and we are determined to keep on moving steadily forward. This year we did not only launch the most ambitious schemes to date, and we are also encouraging battery storage, but we have extended the Feed-In-Tariff to cover a total of 20 years. We want our families to be part and parcel of this transition. With this decision alone, close to 20,000 families will receive cheaper bills.

We have been successful: we are funding technologies such as Air to Water Heat Pumps, Solar Water Heaters, and Battery Storage solutions. The take up more than doubled when compared to previous years. We have been launching support initiatives for enterprises to carry out energy audits while providing financial support schemes for the implementation of new technologies which would result in less energy consumption.

We are also thinking about future energy demand, as a result of continued economic growth, electrification of transport and the ship-to-shore projects. The announcement of a second 200MW interconnector cable with an investment of €170 million will address that and it will also provide us with the required infrastructure to increase our share of renewables. Earlier this year, I also negotiated a derogation that can allow a proposed hydrogen-ready pipeline to be recognised as a Project of Common Interest by the EU. Malta’s current source of fuel for electricity is the supply of LNG. A cleaner alternative source of energy would open market options, deliver competition and continue to strengthen Malta’s position in terms of security of supply.

We are also working on improving our billing and distribution systems. A lot of work is happening behind the scenes which I look forward to continue delivering in the coming months.