FoEM responds to the inclusion of the Melita TransGas pipeline as a European Project of Common Interest

FoEM responds to the inclusion of the Melita TransGas pipeline as a European Project of Common Interest

In the picture, you can see Suzanne Maas standing in front of Delimara in the south of Malta, where the power station is currently fuelled by imported LNG, and where the gas pipeline is planned to arrive.

Dr Suzanne Maas, Climate Campaign Coordinator at FoEM, commented in response to the consultation on the application of Article 24 of the revised TEN-E Regulation regarding the derogation for interconnections for Cyprus and Malta on the behalf of Friends of the Earth Malta.

Project: PCI 5.19 – “Melita TransGas Hydrogen Ready Pipeline”

The Melita TransGas bi-directional pipeline is planned to cross from Sicily to Malta, to transport fossil gas to fuel Malta’s power station to generate electricity, which is currently powered by imported LNG through the Electrogas deal. The proposed gas pipeline will measure 159 kilometres, with a 22-inch diameter and a maximum operational capacity of 1.2 billion cubic metres per year. The total cost of the pipeline is estimated at 400 million euros, which Malta has agreed to pay in full. As Friends of the Earth Malta, we believe public money should be invested in the energy of the future, not of the past. There is no time to waste; for reasons of climate change and energy security, Malta should instead focus on local renewable energy, importing green electricity and improving energy efficiency.

There are three key problems with the proposed Melita gas pipeline:

  1. The climate crisis: Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is incompatible with global, EU, and national carbon emission reduction targets. The science is clear, climate change is here, and to avoid runaway climate change and widespread destruction we need to move away from fossil fuels now. The Melita gas pipeline would lock Malta in a fossil fuel future.
  2. Energy security: The project promoters say the pipeline will end gas isolation in Malta and connect our islands to the trans-European gas network, in line with a 2011 communication by the European Council that “no EU Member State should remain isolated from the European gas and electricity networks”. As a small island state, Malta faces high energy costs and energy supply challenges. However, a fossil gas pipeline is a false solution to increase Malta’s energy security. Malta is not isolated from the European energy grid; the first electricity interconnector was laid between Sicily and Malta in 2015. A planned second interconnector was approved in 2021. Gas prices are currently skyrocketing across Europe and the world. To increase energy security, we need to diversify energy sources, away from fossil fuels, instead of investing in diversification of gas supplies.
  3. Corruption and murder: There is a risk that the Melita gas pipeline will result in Maltese taxpayer money and EU funding ending up in the pockets of Electrogas shareholders. This includes Yorgen Fenech, who is both associated with corrupt deals, and accused of being the mastermind behind the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Electrogas currently operates the Delimara power station and its LNG supply. The Melita gas pipeline project will trigger the payment of a gas exit price from the Maltese government to Electrogas, to compensate for the assets the energy company would hand over.

The project doesn’t include any targets of by when the pipeline would be solely used for hydrogen, and even more importantly, it does not specify the type of hydrogen that will be transported. Today 95-99% of hydrogen is produced from fossil fuel sources (grey or blue hydrogen), not contributing to greenhouse gas emission reduction at all. Green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy is not yet available on a commercial basis. Furthermore, hydrogen is not an efficient energy carrier; the electricity from renewable sources needed to create ‘green’ hydrogen can be used more efficiently directly as electricity. The EU hydrogen strategy therefore emphasises the importance of targeting the use of hydrogen only in specific processes for which there are limited or no climate neutral alternatives, such as for the shipping and aviation industries. Why is the Maltese government pushing so hard for a ‘hydrogen-ready’ pipeline if importing electricity is possible through the interconnector (with a second interconnector being constructed) and is more efficient and affordable than hydrogen, which today is still produced from fossil fuels? If the Melita pipeline is truly a bid to be able to import green hydrogen for specific sectors, then this needs to be supported by the development of a national plan that outlines the local demand for hydrogen and the proposed parameters for production, storage and use of green hydrogen.

Instead of investing millions in a stranded asset (gas pipeline) or a future bubble (hydrogen pipeline), Friends of the Earth Malta demands investment in proven renewable technologies, and the preparation of national plan for green hydrogen needs, to inform any (potential) future investments in this field. We do not believe this project should be considered for the PCI list.

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