The Malta Independent 4 August 2020, Tuesday

If elected PM - Fearne to keep options open on new energy technology

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 5 January 2020, 09:30 Last update: about 8 months ago

A week before the election for the Labour Party leadership takes place, contender Chris Fearne shares his views on the Panama Papers scandal, energy technology, the Electrogas deal and Malta’s reputation abroad

When political responsibility needs to be upheld, would you take immediate action? As an example, when the Panama Papers were released, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat did not get rid of Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, would you have gotten rid of them right away?

Yes, I would have. However, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had the right to take the decisions he had taken, and such decisions were his prerogative.

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How do you intend to deal with Malta’s energy production and distribution problems?

We need to have a holistic energy strategy with diversified energy sources. It is clear that we cannot rely solely on an electricity interconnector. While always aiming at the decarbonisation of our economy, we need to ensure a diversified energy mix. In fact, I intend to continue to work on the development and implementation of the Melita TransGas Pipeline from Delimara (Malta) to Gela (Italy) which would end our isolation from the trans-European Natural Gas Network. 

I intend to keep all options open – especially when it comes to new energy technology in the market. We must keep in mind that Malta’s geophysical characteristics are quite unique and not all energy technology makes sense. Therefore, we need to make sure that any technology that we deploy stands the test of cost-effectiveness and is technically feasible.

For instance, at the moment the cost of deploying floating offshore wind farms and floating offshore solar technology is costly and technology is still in its infancy. However, we shall continue to monitor developments in floating offshore solar and wind technologies and will seek to attract pilot projects implementing floating solar or wind tech in view of their potential in the longer-term.

If elected leader of the Labour Party, and Prime Minister, I will direct my government to look at different forms of energy storage systems – which could prove to be crucial for a small island like ours in the near future. Energy storage is becoming essential for the integration of Renewable Energy.

Given that we are constantly looking at making use of clean energy sources, this would mean that we could also be a looking at options of ensuring that the design of the pipeline infrastructure would not preclude the use of green fuels such as biogas and hydrogen should the distribution of these products over the European gas grid becomes mainstream in the future. Such a development would greatly contribute towards Malta’s future efforts to increase its renewable energy share given the limited effective Renewable Energy resources and clear trend towards electrification.

Will you launch an inquiry into the Electrogas deal, and if wrongdoing is found, or that kickbacks were paid, what action will you take?

The Electrogas deal has already been investigated by the National Audit Office and by the European Commission from a state aid perspective. However, should any evidence of wrongdoing emerge, an inquiry will be launched by the authorities concerned. As I have repeated many times, nobody is above the law, and action will be taken.

The Venice Commission had found a centralisation of powers within the OPM, and had highlighted this as a problem given that the other institutions were weak. Will you be devolving powers from the Prime Minister’s Office and if yes, what powers and how?

We will be implementing the Venice Commission’s recommendations. Apart from that we need to initiate a process, which I intend to do in my first days in office, to convene a conference process on good governance, to discuss together the way forward, and come up with the change that is required so that our institutional framework reflects the latest global developments.

Do you think it was the lack of action taken on major scandals that resulted in Malta’s name being damaged internationally?  And if yes, what do you intend to do about it?

I personally think that the major issue was the assassination of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. This brought the focus of the international community onto Malta and highlighted gaps in the governance structure of our country which we have started, and will continue, to address. I have already announced that if I am elected Prime Minister I will immediately start discussions to hold a rule of law conference including all stakeholders from across all of society.

 

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