Sustainability

Renewables’ immunity to COVID-19 and energy supply contingency

Guest Speakers:

  • Ing Sandro Lauri, CSO, Energy and Water Agency
  • Carlo Mifsud, Executive Director, Luxury Living Technologies
  • Prof Luciano Mule Stagno, Director, Institute for Sustainable Energy
  • Vanya Veras, Owner, Vivacity

 

This webinar was part of the online event "Shaping Malta's Future: The New Norm" which was held in July 2020. 

During this session the panelists discussed the impact that the pandemic had on the use of renewable energy sources.

 

Is energy only about electricity, or does energy consist of more than simply electricity?

Prof Luciano Mule Stagno explained that half of the energy consumed on the island is electricity, however it is not the only source of energy. The rest of the energy consumed consists of fuels such as diesel and petrol. The aim is that Malta will eventually arrive at a point where most energy consumed is in the form of electricity.

 

What does the work of the Energy and Water Agency entail?

Ing Sandro Lauri, as CSO of the Agency, stated that their focus is on transitioning the power sector towards  greener and more sustainable sources. The first step was to shift from heavy fuel oil to natural gas, reducing carbon emissions by over 50%.

Power plants today are running twice as efficient as they did 10 years ago. Parallel to this, numerous support schemes are run supporting investment in renewable energy sources. The most common source of renewable energy in Malta is solar energy. The country has gone from generating a few MW of solar PV to over 150MW by the end of 2019. This equates to around 600,000 panels – more panels than people!

 

Malta’s energy demand patterns are very seasonal. The Maltese population seems to be heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Is it a matter of using greener energy sources or is there room for reducing energy demand?

Vanya Veras replied that the solution to this is both a reduction of energy demand, as well as using greener sources. She mainly focused on the use of green roofs to bring in energy efficiency gain to the island. The use of green roofs is applicable to any roof because it is very light and reduces the cost of implementation. Without a green roof, the building’s temperature can fluctuate by 15 degrees Celsius, increasing the need for air-climatization.

 

A recent survey conducted by Grant Thornton finds that the shift to work from home arrangements have significantly increased energy consumption. How could such consumption be better managed?

Carlo Mifsud insisted on the need for action to be taken with respect to the regulations. He states that if we want to be prepared for a second wave and encourage people to invest in other sources of energy, then the regulations must facilitate this, possibly removing the quotas set in grant schemes.

On the other hand, Sandro Lauri contradicted this statement by saying that the regulations regarding quotas on the number of panel installations do not exist, however, there are quotas stating how much PV power generation can be supported by the government through budget allowances. Whilst recognising that there is always room for fine-tuning, Ing. Lauri added that these regulations cannot be ignored.

 

Has pollution decreased by introducing teleworking?

Air quality is the major positive impact brought about by teleworking. The pandemic has significantly improved the air quality on the island.  Vanya Veras stated that electrification would be the most appropriate energy source for road transport in Malta since air quality is a major issue. Vanya stressed the importance of anaerobic digestion, through which Malta would be able to meet its renewable energy target.

Another important factor to consider is waste generation. In Malta, waste generation is very high and in the push towards a greener economy, the focus should be on waste prevention. As a result of the new EU Directive, 65% of the total waste generated on the island needs to be reused or recycled by 2035.

 

If we have excess capacity, do we need to store it, or can we use it to generate other resources (hydrogen or otherwise)?

Ing Sandro Lauri explained that electricity generated from small-scale plants would most probably be best stored in batteries. He stated that these are still expensive and so, this might not be financially viable.

When talking about larger volumes, one might consider converting that electricity into other forms of energy like hydrogen. Hydrogen is already used overseas, and this would therefore put Malta in a better position to strike deals with foreign countries.