Mayors for energy saving
Extensive knowledge of the local and national context makes local councils indispensable for Malta to fulfill its EU energy obligations.
The Covenant of Mayors is a mainstream European movement involving local and regional authorities voluntarily committing to increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources.
Mayors across Europe are signing up to a formal commitment to go beyond EU objectives on energy and climate change. To secure greater commitment from localities on energy-saving measures, Elodie Bossio gave a presentation at a seminar hosted earlier this month by the Local Councils Association on the Covenant of Mayors (CoM) initiative.
Once they sign up to the covenant, local councils are obliged to draw up a sustainable energy action plan (SEAP) within one year and implement it. In all, 1,500 such plans had been submitted to the European Commission by local authorities and regions in EU member states although this has caused some problems sifting through all the data.
To provide faster feedback to signatories awaiting results of the Joint Research Centre/CoM analysis of their action plans, co-ordinators are to oversee the process by developing a methodology for action plans.
Two action plans from Maltese localities have already been approved. Għargħur and Senglea have come up with individual approaches to the challenge of bringing their energy consumption in line with European targets.
Underlying the EU’s energy policy is the goal to keep global temperature to no more than 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels and avoid dangerous global warming.
Local Councils Association (LCA) executive secretary Jimmy Magro reminded the councils that it was not enough to just sign up to the covenant but that an expert should be engaged to show how energy consumption could be reduced in the locality.
The first step is to draw up a baseline emissions report and then show how the council’s own targets could be achieved by 2020. The action plan is then approved by a committee at the CoM office in Brussels and followed up every two years with reports on the investment needed to reduce energy consumption.
Mr Magro urged more local councils to take part and gain the recognition, resources and networking opportunities needed to “take their energy and climate commitments to the next level”.
So far, 19 local councils have submitted their action plans to the CoM office for assessment. A further seven councils have received reminders to send in their action plans for assessment.
Total national consumption cannot simply be divided by the number of localities to produce a figure for each locality. Each area must conduct a study and come up with its own numbers based on observations.
Improving energy efficiency in buildings and transport are both ways of meeting the targets. To understand how buildings may become more energy efficient we need only take a look at how refrigerators have evolved from being high to relatively low consumers of energy.
To help provide baseline data, the national census provides the number of rooms in each household and also identifies types of vehicles. A 20 per cent reduction of energy consumption must apply all over the locality rather than a local council reaching the target by installing photo-voltaic panels on its roof.
EU funding mechanisms do not always fit Malta’s particularities and there are claims that the Planning and Priorities Co-ordinating Directorate at the Office of the Prime Minister could be very rigid when applying funding rules. Mr Magro claimed that the present system was “discriminatory”, with local councils not treated on the same basis as government departments.
The co-financing mechanism, a fund set up to help local councils make use of EU funds, has been riddled with controversy of late.
However, the LCA executive secretary augured, if local councils worked together more strongly these challenges could be overcome.
The first sustainable energy action plan to come out of a local council in Malta could well serve as a pilot for other localities. Drawn up by engineer Antoine Busuttil, the Għargħur report has zoomed in on street lighting as an area with high potential savings.
One drawback has been that the responsibility for street lighting at the time of writing the report had still not yet devolved to local councils. The Għargħur SEAP envisages that this responsibility will be handed over to the local council by 2015.
It adds that: “Should this be the case, the local council sees a potential in creating energy awareness and reducing the carbon footprint by dimming, replacing with more efficient lightbulbs, relocation/modification or switching off street lighting. The aim is to reduce 20 per cent by year 2017 and a further 10 per cent by year 2020.”
Where it has generally been accepted that before 2005 data is scanty, the Għargħur report identifies 2008 as the year when reliable data became available for that locality. The consumption of water in the locality for that year was obtained from the Water Services Corporation and stood at 87,844 cubic metres (or nearly 38 cubic metres of water per family per year).
The figures were worked backward to the base year of 1990. Applying the reverse osmosis to water table production ratio, and including a factor for pumping and transporting water, the energy usage for water production and distribution, along with the carbon footprint of water consumption was worked out.
Although it is considered a municipal building, electricity consumed by the Għargħur parish church is not under the control of the local council. The Church Environment Commission provides clear guidelines on saving energy in religious buildings.
With the energy performance certificate for buildings now an obligation, new energy service companies to carry out energy audits are expected to make a definite appearance on the local market. The advice to local councils is that it is not enough to simply carry out an energy audit but that the resulting recommendations must be carried out to bring about reductions in consumption.
Mosta was the first local council to take part in an awareness-raising programme as part of an earlier initiative, organised by Friends of the Earth Malta with the help of EU structural funding.
The short video produced in Maltese may provide a useful basis to other councils as they come to implement their action plans.