Malta - Alternative energy debate sparked

Measures announced resulting from steady rise in international oil price

The recent steep rise in the surcharge for water and electricity – up to 55 per cent this month and increasing monthly to 84 per cent in two years’ time – has once again sparked a debate on alternative energy in Malta. The measures announced by the government last month came about after a steady rise in the international price of oil, and the acknowledgement that, as things stand at present, it is highly unlikely that the cost to purchase oil will go down anytime soon. Together with the rise in the surcharge, we must also mention that the price of fuel products – diesel, petrol and kerosene – has also risen sharply over the past months, and it is expected to do so regularly as the prices are revised once every month, rather than once every quarter as was the case until October. In a feature published by The Malta Independent last week, various other forms of energy production were analysed. Energy generated by wind and the sun and bio-gas would go great lengths to reduce the need of energy generated by oil, often at a fraction of the cost.

As a country, it must be said that not enough focus has been applied to alternative energy. Compared to other countries Malta lags far behind and the recent developments in the oil industry have caught us unawares. True, incentives have been offered and this year’s budget has once again addressed the need for a wider take-up of alternative energy. Refunds for the purchase of solar water heaters have been raised, part of the cost for the installation of photovoltaic systems is also being refunded, while Lm100,000 has been allocated for a public awareness campaign. But, one asks, is this enough? And the answer is no, not really. Malta needs a comprehensive National Energy Policy which, it is known, is being drawn up by the Malta Resources Authority. The Malta Independent has been told that the policy is in the last stages of its compilation. It is hoped that we will not have to wait for too long to see the results. From what we have seen so far, it also seems that the government is not convinced about wind energy. It could be that the size of the country and its densely-populated areas make it more difficult for wind- energy systems to be introduced locally, but one must not come to a conclusion in the negative without studying all the possibilities, including the fact that wind energy systems could be installed offshore.

While the budget ruled out what it termed as large- scale wind farms for Malta, it did say the authorities were looking into the possibility of placing off-shore wind-farms on reclaimed land, despite the fact that a number of potential locations for “free standing” offshore wind-farms are known. Of course, one must take into consideration the investment that is needed if such a decision is to be taken, and whether it would, after all, be feasible and reduce costs. But, if off-shore wind-farms are cost-effective it will be possible to find areas along Malta’s coast where they could be installed without hindering other sea-related activities. As to on-shore wind farms, it seems that physical constraints are the most obvious setbacks when it comes to planning their installation in a restricted area, with visual intrusions and high noise-levels being the main objections. Most wind-farms installed abroad are situated in open areas where there are no residents, a luxury that Malta does not have. But sites have been identified as having the potential for wind- farms, and therefore the possibility of setting up wind- farms should not be discarded. The situation being what it is, Malta needs to invest in other forms of energy. Money will have to be spent but, in the end, the investment will bear fruit.
Online Editorial www.windfair.net
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
Malta, wind energy, wind power, wind turbine, wind farm, rotorblade, offshore, onshore, renewable energy

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