Abela taken aback by PN's energy liberalisation proposal, says this would shoot up energy prices

The Prime Minister said that Bernard Grech's solution for the energy sector is to introduce competition to the Enemalta technicians

Prime Minister Robert Abela (Photo: PL)
Prime Minister Robert Abela (Photo: PL)

Prime Minister Robert Abela said that he was taken aback by the PN’s proposal to liberalise the energy distribution market, saying that this would lead to an increase in energy prices.

During an interview on ONE Radio on Saturday, Prime Minister Robert Abela spoke about the MCESD meeting on Friday, and said there is synergy between the government’s vision and that of the social partners on energy.

He said that doubling the budget for next year's electricity distribution was crucial, stating that the previous €15 million annual budget for six years was based on the experts’ climate change predictions.

“We have seen an increase in temperature and other weather extremes, like excessive rainfall and rougher seas [ ...] The extreme weather manifested itself earlier than what experts had predicted and therefore, we need to accelerate our plans,” Abela said.

Malta had negotiated the carbon emmission reduction targets from the 36% requested by the European Commission to 19% by 2030.

The country had argued that it was the bloc’s lowest emitter per capita and required carbon-reduction parameters that it could realistically achieve.

Abela said that the increased investment will be spent on the addition of more distribution centres and substations, the strengthening of the current network and kilometres of new cabling.

The PM also spoke about the energy generating plans, including the second interconnector from Ragusa in Sicily, the Memorandum of understanding with Libya on renewable energy in North Africa, the shore-to-ship project and plans for a battery storage scheme.

PN’s energy liberalisation proposal

The PM said that the PN Opposition is inconsistent on its energy proposals and changes its vision every six months.

“The Opposition Leader is the only person that does not recognise that climate change is a global phenomenon,” Abela said. “Climate change is a result of human behaviour over the years – from toxic fuels to manufacturing.”

Robert Abela said that the climate change authority, announced on Friday, was something the government had been working on for the past months.

David Spiteri Gingell, a management consultant, revealed that he had recommended the setting up of such an agency to the Maltese government in 2009.

“A decision to stand idle would lead to catastrophic results. What we have seen in Malta, Greece, Italy, and Portugal is only the beginning. Experts are telling us that such extreme conditions will be more frequent and intense,” Abela said.

He said that the lifestyle had to change and that the government had to provide directions on the way forward.

Abela stated that new buildings have to be energy efficient and that the government was leading the way by making new schools carbon-neutral.

The Prime Minister lambasted the PN’s proposal to liberalise Malta’s energy distribution network and said that he was taken aback by this.

On Friday, the Nationalist Party revealed their proposals for the energy sector, which included permitting private investment in this infrastructure, leading to "competition and efficiency."

“Their market-driven strategy would shoot up energy prices. Will the burden fall on the people as it did during the PN tenure?” Abela asked.

He said that this would be a slap in the face to the Enemalta workers. “The PN leader’s solution is to introduce competition to the technicians that have worked so hard, day and night, in recent days.”

Construction industry

Abela reiterated that the Magisterial Inquiry into the death of 20-year-old Jean Paul Sofia on a construction site was crucial for justice.

He, however, admitted that he could have been more sensitive on the matter. Abela and the Labour Party parliamentary group had voted against a public inquiry into the tragedy but then gave in to public pressure and announced the inquiry days later.

Abela emphasised that there should be a shift in attitude in the construction sector.

“Certain attitudes of the past are not acceptable anymore. The lack of respect towards the neighbours and the disregard for safety and security no longer have a place [...] The new licencing requirements for contractors and excavators are needed to ensure respect, professionality and discipline.”

He also said that the same protocol will be followed with regards to the public consultation on the licencing of stone masons.

“This country has had too many fatalities in the sector. 120 are too much, and a change in direction is much needed,” Abela stated.