Population growth in Malta is thwarting 10% renewable energy target by 2020

Malta will not reach 2020 target for renewable energy consumption as higher buildings throw shade on solar energy efforts

Malta will only reach its 2020 targets through statistical transfers from other countries
Malta will only reach its 2020 targets through statistical transfers from other countries

Malta may just scrape through its commitment to meet 2020 targets to have 10% of its energy consumption from renewable sources.

But this will probably be achieved through “statistical transfers”, an accounting procedure that transfers one country’s unused renewable energy to another.

According to the draft National Energy and Climate Plan setting out Malta’s objections for energy for 2030, the island is only expected to meet its targets through both indigenous sources and statistical transfers.”

Weighing on Malta’s ability to reach the 10% target is a higher-than-envisaged increase in electricity and energy demand, which reflects the overall increase in population and economic and tourist activity.

Forecasts also show the share of renewable energy sources increasing by just 1% and 2.5% between 2021 and 2030. If this share does not account for the contribution of energy from heat pumps used in air-conditioning, Malta will surely have to commit to use statistical transfers or other types of cooperation mechanisms during this period to minimum renewable energy share of 10% after 2020, as well as to meet other targets.

The report says the growth of the renewable sector in Malta is limited by planning policies which cater “for the increased demand for accommodation” and encouraging the redevelopment of two or three-storey buildings into multi-storey apartment blocks. “This leads to an increase in the frequency and depth of shadowing of rooftops, which further reduces the number of buildings considered suitable for PV installations.”

The report says that by 2040, apartments and maisonettes are expected to constitute almost 70% of Malta’s building stock. And it also claims there is “waning interest” in investment in renewable energy sources because of other investment opportunities “being prioritised at a time of rapid economic growth, such as real estate and various business ventures.” This was demonstrated by a weak response to the calls issued by the government under the competitive bidding process for solar PV installations of more than 1MW.

The total capacity offered under the second call was 35MW but the total bids received amounted to less than 18MW. Statistics already show that final energy consumption has increased from 584kWph to 672kWph, with Malta’s population expected to reach 554,822 by 2030. “The increased population will inevitably have a major impact on the energy system and future energy demand”.

The report suggests that a total footprint of approximately 3.4sq.km will be dedicated to solar energy by 2030, and that both rooftop and brownfield sites continue being given priority for installations.

It also reiterated that wind energy projects, both onshore and offshore, cannot be successfully implemented in Malta due to the lack of near-shore coastal areas and reefs with depths of less than 50 metres, and conflicting uses for these zones because of Malta’s reliance on tourism, maritime and shipping activities. The potential for deep offshore wind energy, using floating platforms, also remains in its infancy; this, combined with the associated high capital investment costs, implies that “floating offshore wind does not constitute a viable short- or medium-term option for Malta.”

What are statistical transfers?

The possibility of statistical transfers was introduced in the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC), which under Article 6 makes it possible for EU Member States to agree to statistically transfer a specified amount of energy from renewable sources from one Member State to another.

In October 2017 Lithuania and Luxembourg became the first EU member states to agree on the transfer of renewable energy statistics which enabled the Grand Duchy to meet its 2020 target.

Lithuania reached its national renewable energy target for 2020 in 2015 and aims to use funds from transfers for further renewable energy in its economy.

In 2015, Lithuania met its 2020 renewable energy target of 23% and renewables now hold at least a 25.75% share of the Baltic state’s energy mix. Conversely, Luxembourg is yet to meet its 11% goal, managing only 5%.


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