FoEM comment on the solar offshore energy project

FoEM comment on the solar offshore energy project

Friends of the Earth Malta (FoEM) welcomes the news about the first potential floating solar farm, with the government issuing an open call for interest to develop a 50MW solar project off the Maltese coast. Malta has one of the lowest shares of renewable energy in the EU, so there is a dire need to ramp up efforts to reduce fossil fuel dependence and increase energy security, in light of the climate and energy crises. Given this, the eNGO is pleased to see the government prioritising the transition to renewable energy sources and the ambition for the country to be climate neutral in 2050. 

The environmental organisation underlines the potential of citizen participation in offshore renewables. Climate Campaign Coordinator, Dr Suzanne Maas, explains: These large scale renewable projects offer an opportunity to include citizens, via renewable energy cooperatives. Look at the example of SeaCoop, a cooperative in Belgium participating in offshore renewable energy installations, enabling citizens to take an active role in decision making and benefiting directly from the renewable energy generated. SeaCoop’s model provides an excellent example for Malta to follow, to ensure that energy democracy can be part of the offshore renewable energy revolution. This is the right time to include enabling conditions for energy communities in the guidelines and tender procedures that will be created for the new area of offshore renewable energy policy. Malta included the definition of renewable energy communities in the legislation on the Promotion of Energy from Renewable Sources (S.L. 545.35), and has an obligation to create an enabling framework for such renewable energy communities, following transposition of the EU Renewable Energy Directive.  

FoE Malta believes that Malta needs to transition as much of its electricity generation to renewable energy sources as fast as possible, to move away from the fossil fuel based energy system. However, to protect Malta’s marine environment, the permitting system should still include the necessary checks and balances to ensure that renewable energy projects do not cause additional environmental impacts on marine ecosystems, and that they align with other obligations, including marine protected areas. 

Energy storage is essential in a system relying on intermittent renewable energy sources. The potential production and storage of ‘green hydrogen’ (hydrogen produced via electrolysis from renewable energy sources) is being mentioned in the same breath as offshore renewable projects, but policy direction and guidelines on (green) hydrogen are so far completely lacking nationally. Today, more than 95% of hydrogen production worldwide is produced from fossil fuels. If Malta is planning to produce or store green hydrogen, FoEM recommends holding a national discussion on the potential production, use, transport and storage of green hydrogen, alongside the need and merits of different forms of energy storage (such as batteries) and estimations of the required volume and uses of different identified storage solutions. 

FoE Malta has been promoting the transition to renewable energy for years. As part of our work, our vision for a renewable energy future, as well as the potential and risks of green hydrogen, were discussed in more detail in the FoEM report ‘Towards a Fossil Free Malta’, published in June 2023. In October 2023 we submitted our feedback on the draft National Policy for Offshore Renewable Energy. Read the full document here.

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