Malta is geographically located in the Mediterranean south of Sicily. The two main islands of Malta and Gozo are heavily populated, and tourism is a vital part of the economy. They have an excellent solar resource, but for various reasons hydro and wind power are not viable for the country. The population (519,000 in 2021) is expanding at around 1.8% per year, which means that, together with the increase in tourism, the need for energy is growing.
As a member of the EU, the country is obliged to meet energy efficiency and emissions targets, including the EU’s collective target of 40% reduction of GHG emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. Malta’s National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (NECP) is a framework for new energy efficiency measures to achieve energy savings.
Malta has neither a domestic resource of fossil fuels nor a gas distribution network, and relies overwhelmingly on imports of fossil fuels and electricity to create energy for businesses and consumers. Since 2015, the Malta–Sicily Interconnector allows Malta to be connected to the European power grid and import a significant share of its electricity. The link has a bidirectional flow capacity of 200 MW. Malta has four gas-fired electricity plants operational and the total combined installed capacity is rated at 537.8 MW.
There is no rail system on the small islands, and no need for domestic airlines. Transport is mainly by car, public buses, and of course local shipping. The geography of the densely-populated islands, combined with the deep offshore waters, low wind speeds, extensive maritime traffic, and conservation areas mean that both offshore and onshore wind projects have been deemed nonviable.
Malta’s renewable energy share stood at 12.2% in 2021, which, despite being higher than ever before, leaves the country as the second worst performer in Europe. Only Luxembourg has a lower amount of renewable energy capacity. The Government is actively attempting to reduce consumption, for example by retrofitting street lights with LEDs. There are several schemes available for householders to install energy saving devices, solar panels, and other energy efficiency measures.
One area where there could be efficiency savings is transportation. With a high number of private cars per capita, and a small area, EVs would seem a natural choice for saving energy. Anyone swapping a conventionally-powered car or van for an EV can get a subsidy of €11,000 ($12,000) and there are higher subsidies for trucks and buses. This has increased take-up. According to the Times of Malta, there were more than 8,600 EVs on the road in March 2023. That’s only around 2% of the 400,000 vehicles registered, so a very small number, despite the subsidy. The good news is that owing to the small area, you are never more than a couple of kilometers from a public chargepoint.
Bioenergy is another area with limited potential. Some biofuel is produced from waste treatment plants. Malta possesses no sustainable sources of biomass and does not have the land area or resources required to cultivate energy crops to any practical extent. As Malta’s climate ensures a low heating demand, targeting increased efficiency in heating and cooling is deemed more effective than increasing the importation of biomass.
The NECP also makes provision for research and development for renewable and energy efficiency systems, but it is hard to see how this would make any significant breakthroughs in areas dominated by giants like the USA or China.
Overall, Malta is trying to make best use of its beneficial resources: small size and abundant solar, with limited access to other sources of power because of geographical and other constraints.