Both the Nationalist and Labour parties are committing themselves to energy strategies that depend on fossil fuels and dirty technologies. Both seem addicted to fuels of the past while the 21st century offers solutions to a clean energy future.

…Malta should be neither the guinea pig of Europe nor the life jacket of the coal industry- Michael Briguglio

Dependency on dirty fossil fuels will only postpone problems related to climate change and to the ever-increasing price of such limited sources of energy.

The Nationalist government keeps giving priority to dirty fossil fuels and not focusing enough on renewable energy. Residents in the south of Malta will bear the brunt of pollution from heavy fuel oil. This reflects the government’s lack of foresight, lack of planning and lack of an energy policy, which takes into account the sustainability of power generation.

AD has been consistently critical of the PN’s energy policy.

Labour, like AD, prefers gas to heavy fuel oil, but, unlike the Greens, Labour is only giving lip service to renewable energy and is supporting dirty technology based on coal.

Indeed, if the PN energy plan is horrific, Labour’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) proposal is a nightmare. Indeed, CCS is intimately tied to dirty fossil fuel industries in coal and oil. Coal? Yes, coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

CCS –being proposed in Malta by Sargas – burns coal and oil with other chemicals. The use of such fossil fuels means CO2 will increase. In what sounds too good to be true, the difference is that the CO2 is supposed to be captured forever.

This technology depends completely on the issue of whether CO2 can be dumped permanently and securely. The captured CO2 needs to be transported to its storage, emitting CO2 in the process. Once the CO2 is dumped, CCS leakage could cancel out any climate benefit as do the increased energy requirements of CCS technology.

The plain truth is that this technological quick-fix is too risky and not developed enough in a day and age when the global community is already late in the adaptation to climate change. Does the world have time to keep experimenting with Frankenstein energy when the writing is on the wall?

The Sargas proposal is unclear where financing is concerned. Sargas is not guaranteeing the length of validity of its proposal. This means that prices could change. Hardly surprising when one keeps in mind that fossil fuels have limited supply, which means that their price is likely to keep increasing due to surge in global demand, especially due to the growth of emerging economies such as China’s and India’s.

During its recent presentation in Malta, Sargas said that the price of 7c5 per unit of electricity is only in relation to energy generation (raw cost of energy). Yet, what about costs related to transport and disposal of captured CO2 and what about costs related to a new power plant? The latter alone is estimated to cost about €900 million.

Common sense assumes that the Maltese consumer will have to foot the bill for this.

In a report in The Sunday Times (December 4), experienced engineer Derek Lennon revealed that, in the UK, massive subsidies to CCS plants were not sufficient to recover the costs of three new proposed plants proposed by Drax. One plant was eventually built only after a massive subsidy of €175 million. The British government has now postponed a £1 billion funding for a full-scale pilot plant.

As far as Sargas’s argument to export carbon to Denmark, the new Danish government, which includes a Green Foreign Minister, is committing itself to sustainable energy reform and cutting dependency on fossil fuels. It is also now refusing Vattenfall’s carbon storage plan. Vattenfall is connected with Sargas. Indeed, Denmark’s Climate and Energy Minister will be awaiting the outcome of CCS projects in other countries before approving the process for use in Denmark. No wonder Sargas is lobbying extensively in Malta!

Sargas has also attempted to depict itself Freen by referring to the support of so-called “environmental” NGO Bellona, sponsored by fossil fuel companies. Yet, true environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace are definitely against CCS. Indeed, CCS provides more benefits to the dirty coal industry than it does to climate.

Thus, I remain flabbergasted how Labour and its satellites seem to be acting as spokesmen for Sargas. Labour should also explain what will happen to Enemalta employees should the Sargas proposal be accepted if the party is in power.

Given that both heavy fuel oil and CCS are based on dirty fossil fuels, what is the way forward for a sustainable energy programme?

AD is proposing that Malta should shift to gas – as a transitional energy – as early as possible and progressively increase its investment in clean renewable energy, such as solar and wind, which are the best options for Malta, to reach the 10 per cent target committed with the EU by 2020 and further increases after that. Gas is a fossil fuel, meaning it is finite and expected to increase in cost. But, at least, it is much less polluting than other fossil fuels, though being more expensive.

As for renewable energy, Sargas wrongly says that it is not viable. Indeed, to the contrary, the International Energy Agency has said that renewable energy is becoming increasingly cost competitive while having clear environmental and energy security benefits.

Twenty per cent of the world’s power generation comes from renewable energy with hydro power leading the way with an 84 per cent share.

Sargas is saying that Malta can lead the way in Europe by resorting to CCS. We Greens return the compliment by stating that Malta should be neither the guinea pig of Europe nor the life jacket of the coal industry.

Dr Briguglio, a sociologist, is chairman and spokesman for economy and finance, Alternattiva Demokratika –
the Green party.

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