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MALTATODAY 8 January 2023

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9 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 8 JANUARY 2023 NEWS Dirty coal accounts for 13% of imported electricity JAMES DEBONO COAL, the dirtiest fuel in terms of carbon emissions, has ac- counted for one-tenth of the electricity imported by Malta from the European mainland through the interconnector. And with 6% of that electric- ity derived from nuclear power stations, the imported mix is radically different from 2020's figures, when coal account- ed for 17% and nuclear over a tenth. Malta is powered by both a liquefied natural gas plant (LNG) as well as an electricity interconnector that provides energy from the European mainland by subsea cable from Sicily. Natural gas is estimated to emit 50-60% less carbon di- oxide (CO2) when combusted by new and efficient plants, compared to emissions from a coal-burning plant. But while the emissions from these imported fossil fuels are not produced in the Maltese plant, they still contribute to global warming, unlike renew- able and nuclear energy whose carbon footprint is negligible. Energy from the interconnec- tor accounted for one-fifth of the total energy mix of the is- land in 2021, which means the actual share of coal in Malta's energy mix in 2021 was 3%. Nuclear energy also accounted for 6% of imported electrici- ty in 2021, down from 11% in 2020. Nuclear energy is cleaner than coal and natural gas in terms of carbon emissions, but is shunned by environmental- ists because of the radioactive waste it produces and fears of nuclear fallout from major ac- cidents like Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. Enemalta statistics show that 83% of the energy imported from Italy in 2021 was derived from fossil fuels, which in vary- ing degrees contribute to glob- al warming. In contrast, renew- able energy only accounted for a tenth of imported electricity in both 2020 and 2021, down from 15% in 2019. According to a Central Bank study based on 2019 statistics, when imported renewables are added to locally produced re- newable energy, Malta would exceed the EU mandated 10% threshold for electricity be- ing supplied from renewable sources. But the report also called for more investment in renewa- ble energy because Malta still failed to reach the mandatory threshold to have 10% of its to- tal energy supply from locally produced renewables in 2020, having to resort to buying en- ergy credits from other coun- tries. In 2020, Malta acquired €2 million in renewable energy "credits" from Estonia to reach its EU targets for that year, and it had previously also entered in a €1.4 million seven-year deal with Bulgaria for 2013- 2020. Malta should stop importing coal and nuclear energy – Friends of the Earth Friends of the Earth, one of the few local environmental groups focused on energy issue is calling on the Maltese gov- ernment not to accept coal and nuclear as part of the country's energy mix. "Fossil fuels are proving un- reliable, expensive, and in- compatible with greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to avoid climate catastrophe. Nuclear energy remains a chal- lenge, due to safety risks, the lack of solutions for the long- term waste problem, and the dangers of proliferation," Su- zanne Mass, the Climate Cam- paign Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Malta told Malta- Today. But with the rise in the cost of energy triggered by the inva- sion of Ukraine, governments across Europe are scrambling to find alternatives to Russian gas. Faced with increased reli- ance on coal the German gov- ernment, which includes the Green Party, has reluctantly slowed down the closure of nu- clear plants and more EU gov- ernments are investing in off- shore LNG plants like the one in Marsaxlokk. But FOE opposes further investment in fossil fuels, in- cluding the EU-approved gas pipeline from Malta to Italy, which it fears will further lock Malta's fossil fuel dependence, and argues that the only way to really safeguard Malta's energy security and "protect people and businesses from external shocks" is for government to invest in the energy of future: "energy savings, renewables and community energy". Reducing energy use in build- ings, operations and transport may well be "the cheapest and fastest way to decrease energy consumption and save money". This can be achieved through building renovations, stricter standards for the energy per- formance of new buildings, and a modal shift to cleaner modes of transport (public transport, walking, cycling), supported by the right fiscal incentives to re- ward the positive shift and tax wasteful behaviour. Moreover, Malta also needs to urgently increase its share of renewable energy. "We need an ambitious plan for a fossil free Malta, based on increased renewable energy sources in Malta and agreements to im- port electricity from renewable sources through the intercon- nector(s)," Maas said. An electrification of transport should come from renewable sources to signify a real re- duction in carbon emissions, instead of shifting emissions from tailpipe to power station, she added. FOE is also calling for a le- gal framework for renewable energy communities to enable citizens to supply, share and save energy and have a say on the energy system. "The up- take of PV in the built envi- ronment needs to be ramped up, including on public build- ings and multi-story apartment blocks, which could be ena- bled through renewable energy communities". Carbon-friendly but problematic nuclear energy accounted for 6% of imported energy in 2021, down from 11% in 2020 while renewables accounted for 11% of imported energy up from 10% in the previous year Energy mix of energy imported from interconnector in 2020 and 2021 Mix of energy sources provided by Enemalta to the country in 2020 and 2021 Suzanne Mass, Climate Campaign Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Malta

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