The Malta Independent 22 August 2019, Thursday

Land reclamation and renewable energy

Sunday, 3 February 2019, 09:48 Last update: about 8 months ago

Noel Cassar

Over recent years, Maltese governments have pushed strongly to increase the use of renewable energy. We know that for decades, our country was completed reliant on oil to generate electricity. Over time, we wanted to reduce this dependency because the country and we, the consumers, were impacted by the prices of oil in the overseas market, as an increase in the price of oil would have a negative effect on our country.

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In 2009, the European Union issued a directive requiring member states to ensure that a fifth of their entire consumption of energy is derived from renewable sources by the year 2020. This means that the target of 20 per cent of electricity from alternative energy could be reached by setting different customized targets for each member state. This target is expected to rise to 27 per cent by 2030. Malta has a target of 10 per cent for all the electricity consumed by 2020 to be generated by renewable energy. This goal can only be achieved by technology that utilizes energy coming from the sun, such as solar panels and solar water heaters, wind source, as well as the introduction of biofuels.

Until 2016, Malta had generated six per cent of electricity from Renewable Energy. Although there was a great improvement after a change in administration, meeting the target of 10 per cent is a long way off. Other countries such as The Netherlands and Luxembourg are in the same situation as our country. One must keep in mind that the change our country embarked on over the last years, Malta is the country that has improved the most in the past 13 years.

However, I strongly believe that we need to look beyond our confines in the renewable energy area. It was very good that the current government started to figure out how to incentivize those families who have no roof space where they can install solar panels. A solar farm the government installed recently is at the Fiddien water reservoir in the limits of Rabat, and has a footprint of two football pitches. This project caters for up to 370 family homes. It is vital that such projects increase, with the government providing guidance and projects on one side, and the private sector (companies or the general public) which will invest in them. Last year, Minister Joe Mizzi came up with a plan for industrial companies to invest in solar farms by installing solar panels on their roofs in the various industrials parks. We need the government to also invest in solar panels floating on the sea. According to statistics, solar panels on the sea produce three per cent more energy than panels on land. However, in my humble opinion using solar energy alone might not be enough to reach the 10 per cent target by 2020.

It is vital therefore that we use the wind factor to produce electricity. Given the fact that our country is surrounded by sea, we get many windy days. Under certain prevailing conditions, Sicily can act as a barrier against strong low-level northerly winds; this reduces the strength of the wind, which makes the wind farm's concept a viable option. When talking about wind farms, these can be onshore or offshore wind farms which are constructed in bodies of water, usually on the continental shelf. As regards onshore wind farms, we all know that land is a scarce resource, making them impractical. However, given the current strategy to use the large amount of construction waste from the Gozo’s tunnel project for land reclamation, I suggest that in the current study, the government should consider using this land reclamation site to install a wind farm to generate energy. This should be a viable option.

There are various funding programmes in the European Union our country could tap into and make use of. There are programmes such as the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), as well as other programs in place for a few years, like the Horizon 2020 program work. If elected to the European Parliament, I will endeavour to get as much European funds as possible to carry out more research on renewable sources to generate electricity.

 

Noel Cassar is an MEP candidate

 

 

 


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