Brian Muscat, The Malta Chamber Manufacturing Economic Group Chairperson, and MBB Director
This Opinion Piece featured on The Sunday Times of Malta, on 19th March 2023
In these last years, Maltese manufacturing companies have faced several challenges. The pandemic precipitated both physical constraints and a supply-chain crisis.
Soaring prices and ever-longer lead times posed a historic challenge. Industry pulled together and rose to the occasion; unfortunately, the war in Ukraine has exacerbated the situation further.
While energy has been subsidised in Malta, inflation has not left Maltese industry untouched, as our industries are links in a wider global supply chain. Malta has the added challenge of double insularity as an island state.
In spite of all the difficulties we have faced, Malta endures as it always had. However, it is essential that the respite that energy subsidies have bought us is used to its full potential. Leadership in energy efficiency will help Malta to preserve its competitive advantage and its cost base.
Energy subsidies will not continue indefinitely, and even once the war in Ukraine concludes, the geopolitical reality will not simply revert to what it was before. The era of cheap Russian gas is over. Maltese manufacturing SMEs need to think more strategically about their energy consumption.
With the help of government funding to carry out energy audits, businesses can identify areas of improvement and make the necessary investments to reduce their reliance on energy subsidies, and improve their overall energy efficiency, thus ensuring long-term sustainability for their businesses.
The Malta Business Bureau, as the EU-advisory organisation of The Malta Chamber and the MHRA, is emphasising the importance of energy efficiency through its national and EU projects, providing guidance to Maltese SMEs through workshops and one-on-one support to lessen the burden of navigating the bureaucracy of grants and schemes.
The Malta Chamber, in turn, through its Manufacturing Economic Group, addresses the policy aspect on a national level through internal and external discussions with stakeholders.
Together with the Malta Business Bureau, The Malta Chamber collaborates on initiatives related to energy efficiency, key among them being the WE MAKE project, which is funded and supported by the Energy and Water Agency (EWA).
So far, the project has offered guidance on energy audits, best practices in manufacturing, and collaboration opportunities between industry and academia through various workshops.
The emphasis on the importance of energy audits takes centre stage, given the current business climate. The project team has made slots available through March and April for one-on-one online meetings to discuss the current operations and investment plans of Maltese manufacturing SMEs.
Based on the data collected by the team, specific grants are then recommended, and if the enterprise is interested, a meeting is also arranged with Malta Enterprise or the Measures and Support Division to discuss the concept in detail.
As for energy audits, these are funded directly by EWA, and thus the connection is quick to establish within the project team itself. Applying for the audit is a simple process, with limited paperwork and a wide window within which the audit can be carried out afterwards.
Energy audits can help identify key areas where energy is being wasted or used inefficiently, and offer opportunities for cumulative savings which quickly add up to a significant number. Inefficient heating or cooling systems, poor insulation or inadequate ventilation can lead to significant energy waste.
The carrying out of an energy audit is an underappreciated activity due to the potential benefits for a company’s cost base. Once an energy audit is conducted, the grants and schemes offered by Malta Enterprise can be utilised to ensure a more attractive return on investment by covering some of the expenses of the investment.
The Malta Business Bureau and The Malta Chamber provide assistance to SMEs to apply for an energy audit grant from EWA through the WE MAKE project. Applying is a straightforward procedure, with a two-page application form which only asks for very basic information from a company.
A company can apply for the audit at an early stage, without needing to even have decided on a particular auditor. Therefore, it is prudent to apply for the audit early on as one of the first steps in the process. Manufacturing SMEs can receive up to 5000 euros as a result of this grant to cover audit costs.
Addressing Malta’s strategic energy challenges requires a collective effort and doing so will result in a more competitive manufacturing sector. Achieving this requires a mindset recognising the strengths of cooperation and co-opetition, rather than competition.
Through our joint initiatives, we aim to grow the proverbial pie by upskilling, making companies aware of grants andschemes and promoting the sharing of best practices, and awareness of cutting-edge technologies. It is with this mindset that Malta can stand to shine from the green transition.
Brian Muscat is a director of the Malta Business Bureau and chairperson of the Manufacturers and Other Industries Economic Group in The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.
To take advantage of the unique window of opportunity to benefit from increased competitiveness offered by the WE MAKE project, manufacturing companies may freely get in touch with MBB by calling 2125 1719 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org