The Malta Independent 25 April 2017, Tuesday

Renewable energy

Alfred Sant Monday, 17 April 2017, 08:05 Last update: about 7 days ago

As a country we are well below the targets we have set (or were they set for us?) regarding the percentage use of renewable energy sources in our total energy consumption. Up to now, the major (if not the only) source that makes sense for Malta is solar, since photovoltaic and similar methods have been giving satisfactory results.

Individuals and companies were encouraged to turn to these methods while offloading their excess supply to the national electricity grid, run by Enemalta.

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So I was surprised when told that if individuals or companies seek to run a project which would deliver substantial volumes of electricity generated by solar power, they need to pay a disproportionately high tariff to get connected to the grid. This would well exceed what they need to pay by way of a connection fee, if proposing to deliver a relatively low volume of solar electricity.

I fail to understand the reason for the discrepancy. Could it be that it is now in Enemalta’s financial interest to curtail the generation of solar power by private entrepreneurs? If so, this would contradict the targets set nationally for renewable energy generation by 2020. Hefty penalties would need to be paid if these targets are not reached.

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Covered bonds

Along with others, I am at present involved in the preparation of a European Parliament report that discusses new European rules providing a framework across the EU for the issue and management of covered bonds. In Malta, these have never been used but they are an important financial instrument in a number of EU member states (not all).

Covered bond issues comes with an exclusive guarantee based on a ring fenced pool made of mortgages and government bonds. The pool is generally larger in value than the total volume of the bond issue. Moreover, the issuer of covered bonds also attaches a direct guarantee. So covered bonds are considered particularly safe investments.

Over the years, they have gained financial prestige, so much so that in past months, the European Central Bank as it bought private debt instruments to implement its quantitative easing programme, has become the largest institutional holder of covered bonds.

The question arises: If covered bonds have been such a success up to now, does it make sense to subject them to new European regulations?

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’Twixt 4

As I write this, most media are predicting that the French presidential campaign at its first round, has become a race between four candidates who all stand a chance of getting through: Marine Le Pen, at the extreme right; Francois Fillon, at the right-centre; Emanuel Macron, at the centre; and Jean Luc Melenchon, at the “extreme” left.

Up to now, the projected first round scenario developed as follows: initially, the favourites were Le Pen and Fillon; after that, Le Pen and Macron.

It would be most “interesting” if French voters opted to choose Le Pen and Melenchon to run for the second round.

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