The Russian invasion of Ukraine has exposed European vulnerability from relying on fossil fuels produced in non-democracies. The EU has had renewables and energy efficiency as a priority since before the war.
The war, however, has accelerated this drive to record levels of ambition and urgency, with EU policymakers negotiating more ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy targets.
As a business representative entity, the Malta Business Bureau’s key interest is how to turn these developments into opportunities for Maltese industry, while making it more sustainable in the process.
Malta has neither natural resources, nor vast economic or political power. It is often said that Malta’s people are its greatest resource. When it comes to Malta’s people and energy – what is our situation and how can we prepare for the coming energy future? Particularly, how can the business community ensure that it is ready to adopt improved energy practices?
There are many roads to achieving increased renewable and energy efficiency in businesses. These range from upskilling of workers, to addressing infrastructural lock-in (e.g. by ensuring buildings are designed with energy in mind from the start and constructed with this same priority).
Businesses can also implement energy management systems to monitor the real-time performance of energy consuming assets and can carry out energy audits. Government support is available for such initiatives, whether through digitalisation funds or directly covering the costs of energy audits.
These are all methods which have been increasing in visibility and gaining ever more attention over the past decade. We can expect them to gain increasing priority as we move further towards the 2030 targets, and then the 2050 targets.
It is also very important to be watchful for emerging technologies which could help improve energy performance, or even shift production to non-polluting measures which improve energy independence for states and regions. The big news lately is nuclear-fusion, with researchers in the US generating more energy through nuclear-fusion than the process consumed.
Unlike fission, fusion does not produce highly active, long-lasting radioactive waste, and can unlock vast quantities of energy. Fusion could very well change the world, but it is years away from commercialisation if this scientific success continues. We cannot, therefore, rely on it to avert climate change.
It is important to continue developing the entire energy ecosystem in Malta– Timothy Alden
Other technologies closer to home are also important – one of the latest being highly efficient heat pumps, which has spurred an adoption drive, complemented by pull-policies, throughout the EU.
Technology and practices aside, it is important to appreciate that businesses alone cannot achieve the savings required, as they themselves are dependent on various stakeholders. These range from suppliers, to infrastructure planners and builders, to available financing options, to skills and expertise in graduates and the current workforce – an entire energy ecosystem.
This ecosystem has already delivered front-running enterprises in Malta, such as one which recently upgraded their systems to provide over 34 per cent renewable energy generated on-site, and an additional 35 per cent energy savings through efficiency.
This business employed an ideal energy strategy resulting in reduced wasteful consumption and replaced fossil fuel generated electricity with renewable energy.
Geothermal cooling is attracting a lot of business interest. Latest generation cooling systems are becoming more common. Highly efficient server halls have been built, and a company has even had excellent success in increasing fleet efficiency through planning and product/service development.
Several of these front-running businesses actively share their knowledge and experience, for e.g. through the WE MAKE project’s mentoring sessions, where De La Rue and Baxter generously shared their experience in generating energy savings in air compression systems. This programme has already led to several larger SMEs planning/implementing their own air compression saving programmes.
It is important to continue developing the entire energy ecosystem in Malta. No single sector can drive the ambitious changes needed alone. However, there are solid foundations for doing so. The University of Malta’s industry-academia efforts always lead to interesting projects.
In addition to national grants, such as those by the Energy and Water Agency (EWA) and those offered by Malta Enterprise, banks are tapping EU funds to create financing measures for energy and business, the latest being BOV and APS partnering on the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Financial Instrument (EERE FI).
Suppliers in Malta have had success importing technologies offering excellent savings potential. MBB and EWA are now collaborating on a new EU-funded project, Energy4SMEs, which is a consortium of over 20 partners from across Europe.
MBB will be responsible for developing a digital tool to help businesses identify financing opportunities to become more energy efficient. Going forward, Malta should continue to strengthen all the active stakeholders in the energy field – the EU’s targets are ambitious and achieving them will not be easy. The opportunities, however, are simply too exciting to miss.
Timothy Alden is the project manager for sustainability-related projects at the Malta Business Bureau.
The Malta Business Bureau is the EU Advisory organisation of The Malta Chamber and the MHRA, and a partner of the Enterprise Europe Network. For queries regarding its ongoing sustainability projects, contact firstname.lastname@example.org