EPOU CLIMATE CHANGE SUB COMMITTEE’S VIEWS ON THE CONSULTATION REPORT – NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR POLICY AND ABATEMENT MEASURES RELATING TO THE REDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
The EPOU Climate Change sub committee (EPOCCS) welcomes the CCC Report and agrees with most of the recommendations made.
The climate change topic has been part of several national discussions for the past years, but no serious actions had been taken to address related issues. Moreover the general public had rarely been involved.
With the Climate Change Committee (CCC) report, this matter has been diverted to take another path. The promotion of this report by the media has allowed a national debate to be initiated, where a considerable amount of the population is expected to put forward their ideas. We agree that this is extremely important and healthy for the Maltese society so that when actions are still being formed at the discussion level, these are tailored around for the best of those who will be directly affected. On the other hand, an individual at home, a person in command of a small to medium sized business or a member on an executive board of a large company, must all wear the same thinking hat and whenever decisions are taken, the reduction of green house emissions must be seriously taken into consideration.
Another positive aspect which is attributed to the CCC report is that, it is urging non governmental organisations and other entities, which are not usually associated in the environment sector, to create internal groups and allocate time to analyse and discuss this climate change topic.
The setting of target dates for most of the recommendations is essential so that those responsible are committed to take the necessary initiatives for a prosperous future.
2. Specific Comments on Recommendations made
2.1 Sub-marine Cable
The EPOCCS does not agree with recommendation 23 regarding the sub-marine cable connecting Malta to Sicily. Questions arise whether the security of supply will be threatened at the expense of reducing the GHG emissions. The submarine cable is a real time provider of electricity and given the scenario of a cable fault occurring when 200MW are being supplied, the electricity network in Malta will surely collapse and plunge the whole nation in darkness with very serious consequences for the whole business community on the island. To add insult to injury repairing a fault at sea is not an easy task especially if the elements of nature are against you. Unfortunately only just before last Christmas we had an experience of a cable fault for internet service and this took more than a couple of days to repair. Are we going to plunge more than half of the Maltese islands without electrical power for such a long time?
The cable interconnection has to be evaluated vis-à-vis the political, economical and social implications it may have. From the 19th century, Malta has been producing its own energy and thus has never been dependent on a single country for its electricity supply. A political analysis identifying the repercussions brought by the dependency of our supply from a single country should be undertaken.
The economic well-being of the country and the social factor has also to be analyzed before embarking in such a project. The cable interconnection will invariably result in loss of jobs in the energy sector, loss of local sub contracting from the power stations and a deskilling effect of trades which used to be required in running a power station.
At this point the EPOCCS recognise the fact that the recommendation for a submarine cable connecting Malta to Italy is surrounded by lots of unknowns and would like to commend that the CCC will look further into the assessment currently underway by MRA.
2.2 Wind as a source of energy
EPOCCS agrees with the CCC Report that there are many constraints in adopting wind as a renewable source of energy. However, it strongly believes that a proper pilot project should be initiated by the local authorities. This committee is aware of the fact that not all sites are suitable for wind farming and that proper wind studies has to be performed on sites linked to be adequate to host wind turbines. Nationally a debate has been going on whether it would be best to install wind farms on shore or off shore. Keeping in mind that wind turbine technology is still in its introductory stage in Malta, and internationally the number of installed wind turbines at a depth equal to that of Maltese sea is still low, this committee would suggest the installation of just 2 x 3MWe turbines on shore. In this way, the 6MW total, would not affect the local generating power stations when wind drops or accelerates and in the meantime Malta will be starting to get the know how and experience indispensable to run such equipment.
This would be the initial stage of wind farming in Malta. Once installed and running, the local culture on on-shore wind farming may improve thus favouring more wind turbine installation. Meanwhile, Malta should advance to the next stage of installing off shore wind turbines, only when international technology on off shore wind farming at high depths would have improved and be a worldwide proven technology.
2.3 Photovoltaic Cells
Instead of investing a high initial cost on an interconnection cable to have a source of renewable energy from abroad, the EPOCCS recommends the introduction of higher incentives in photovoltaic installations on household roofs. In this way, interested parties willing to install PV cells on their roof can be further encouraged to carry out such a project. This incentive should also allow the local energy authority to buy back at a more reasonable rate the excess energy produced.
The cable solution is usually commended as keeping the Maltese electricity system stable, however EPOCCS would like to note that considering our climate the amount of power generated from the installed photocells can be predicted if an audit of installed PVs is kept up to date.
Technically this dispersed solution will also provide a much better distribution of the power generated on the island and hence will involve lower losses and higher efficiencies in the distribution system.
During the summer daily peaks, steam turbines and combined cycles are less efficient due to the higher ambient temperature, such PV systems will therefore help generation avoiding high cost power generation from the use of open cycle gas turbines.
The threat of bulk load shedding due to an interconnection cable failure is also mitigated by increasing the number of small distributed PV installations.
3. EPOCCS proposals
3.1 Partnership between the Government and the private sector
It is highly recommended that there should be a form of partnership between the government and the private sector to follow a common path to tackle the challenges of climate change. Every quarter all stakeholders shall meet and analyse their progress in the actions taken. Lessons can be learnt from these sessions and by sharing information, the best technology with the more efficient methodologies can be discussed and therefore time can be saved and certain mistakes not repeated. The partnership between the government and the private sector can also involve the academic institutions to join in various programmes.
To open this opportunity and encourage all firms of all sizes to take part, the contributions to the partnership can take form in different ways such as providing funds, material, machinery or human resources. A certificate to show the participation in such programmes must be issued and presented to the company involved. From their side, customers who are also contributing in their own way to the climate change programme will build trust and make their purchases from companies exhibiting this certificate. This has already taken place during the Euro changeover last year, where those shops which followed instructions by the NECC, were awarded the ‘FAIR’ certificate and were in turn trusted by customers.
3.2 Renewable Energy Projects
Whilst encouraging all renewable energy projects on the island, one has to carry out a considerable amount of tests to check the viability of the projects. It is common knowledge that both onshore and offshore wind turbines developments require large financial resources. The government should seriously consider initiating renewable sources knowledge based companies. In addition feasibility studies on whether manufacturing on shore wind turbines locally should also be undertaken by the government.
Floating offshore wind turbines are expensive and are still being developed therefore it might not be sensible to invest in today’s existing technology knowing the fact that within a few years, with the amount invested today one can acquire more reliable and more efficient technology. This committee suggests as a first step, a provision of offshore locations for research and development to start building local knowledge on the subject.
3.3 Roads, Transport and Households.
With regards to the transport section, it is a known fact that often traffic jams are created by heavy vehicles that are used to carry goods. There should be a time window when these trucks are allowed to circulate and suitable parking spaces have to be provided in order to divert these vehicles should they happen to be on the road during the prohibited time. Otherwise a planned route should be set to indicate from where these heavy vehicles can pass during the peak hours.
An agreement between local councils and the government should take place to address the issue of our roads status. There are secondary roads which motorists prefer not to use because of their bad state despite that using these roads can be faster. As a result more cars are present in the main junctions resulting in higher GHG emissions. The car sharing scheme must be encouraged by employers where each worker seeks for other co workers living in his vicinity and use only one car to travel to work. Besides, being convenient, this scheme helps in reducing green house gases emissions.
Firms in industrial estates together with nearby local councils can also set up projects to tackle the emissions that are produced by cars. Given the favourable weather, there are only few days around the year in which bicycles are not suitable. Proper and continuous bicycle tracks should be built which safely connect villages to these industrial estates and therefore workers will be encouraged to use their bicycles to travel to work.
The EPOCCS would also like to note the considerable amount of unregulated wood burning fire places being installed in households. These fireplaces are causing an uncontrolled source of GHG emission as most of the wood being burnt is uncertified and not suitable for such a process. This committee therefore suggests tighter control and regulations on wood burning fire place installations. Furthermore, a national awareness campaign should be initiated, especially on burning wood containing lead paint. The authorities should either speak in favour of installation of gas burning fireplaces or request stringent emission filtering measures on wood burning fireplaces’ chimneys.