Malta lies in sixth place among EU member states for the amount of solar heating when adjusted to reflect the size of the population.

A EurObserver report on solar energy reported that Malta had 0.119 square metres of solar installations per capita in 2016, generating 0.083 kilowatt hours per person. This compares very favorably to the EU average of 0.10 square metres and 0.07 kilowatt hours, but is nowhere near the 0.764 square metres and 0.535 kilowatts of the EU leading member state, Cyprus.

The situation in Europe as whole is going backwards, not forwards, however. Only 2.6 million square metres of installations were added in 2016, compared with 2.73 million in 2015. And this trend has been noted for years: in 2008, there were 4.6 million square metres of solar energy installations, representing an annual contraction of 6.9 per cent.

In 2008, there were 4.6 million square metres of solar energy installations, representing an annual contraction of 6.9 per cent.

The EurObserver report said this drop was due to the low price of natural gas, which affects solar energy’s ability to compete.

The report warns that the sites installed during the peak years at the end of the 1990s – when about a million square metres every year were being added - are now reaching the end of their lives and more are being decommissioned than new sites are added.

The report’s main concern is that unless the trend is reversed, the targets set out in the EU’s Renewable Energy Action Plan for 2020 would not be reached – and could be as low as half the target. The plan had set 3 million (tonne of oil equivalent) as its 2015 target, but had only scraped past the 2.1 million mark by 2016.

“While the outlook is grim, it is not disastrous,” the report notes. “While the individual home segment cannot deliver to expectations, the growth prospects for solar thermal in the collective housing hot water production, industrial heat production and district heating nd much more promising, underpinned by stricter European regulations and the offer of suitable equipment by manufacturers to slash production costs.”

Heating and cooling are responsible for half the EU’s energy demand, and three quarters of this is still met by fossil fuel.

Read: Malta’s first solar farm is almost complete

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