Updated 6pm with the signing of the joint declaration

Malta and eight other Mediterranean countries agreed on Thursday to pursue the idea of turning the region into a hub for renewable energy, and will rope in the EU Commission to reach this aim.

Malta, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain signed a joint statement at the end of their Med9 meeting in Valletta, in the presence of European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson.

Through the declaration, they confirmed their commitment “to ensure continuous efforts to improve energy security, energy affordability and to accelerate the transition towards renewable energy.”

Energy Minister Miriam Dalli told a concluding press conference that the vision was to replicate in the Mediterranean the success already achieved in the North Sea when it comes to offshore renewable energy deployment.

She explained how she and her counterparts had agreed to set up a steering committee to continue political and technical discussions on the sector. They will invite the European Commission to conduct a comprehensive study to investigate the potential of the Mediterranean region in becoming a corridor of green energy transmission between EU and non-EU countries.

They also agreed to invite the EU Commission to explore options for reinforced funding for interconnections between EU and non-EU Mediterranean countries.

They also agreed to coordinate efforts towards the acceleration of cross-border permitting of offshore infrastructure in the regions because investment in renewables was not only a good investment but the best investment to address the present and future challenges.

Answering questions, Dalli said that having the European Union collaborate with North African countries on energy renewables could be a catalyst in helping maintain stability and peace in the region.

“We want this region to be stable and peaceful, and we believe there are a number of ways to achieve this,” she said.

“We believe the energy sector can be a catalyst in strengthening the Mediterranean region. We want this region to be stable and peaceful, and we believe there are a number of ways to achieve this,” she added.

Addressing the summit, Dalli described Malta’s results of its renewable energy investments in recent years as “very encouraging”, with Eurostat figures showing that the country exceeding its national 2030 target by the end of 2021.

“I’m convinced that for all of us, the 2030 target is not the ultimate destination, but a milestone along the way. Our ultimate objective is climate neutrality, and the earlier we attain it, the quicker we can ensure a sustainable future and better quality of life for our people,” she said.

She told her counterparts that Malta was considering floating offshore renewables as the technology that can help it make the leap needed to ensure a higher share of renewables in its energy mix. A pre-market consultation had been conducted and Malta was currently finalising a policy document focusing on the deployment of offshore renewable energy systems. This will lead to the identification of potential zones for implementing offshore renewable energy and the eventual launch of an expression of interest for the first-ever floating renewable energy projects.

“We believe that EU funds need to be channelled towards innovative renewable energy projects that attract investment across all sea basins, including the Mediterranean. This should focus on two fronts, the required financial support for research and innovation in new emerging technologies, and the required financial support for grid developments and proper infrastructure for the production, transmission, and storage of energy,” she said.   

She urged the commission to help accelerate close cooperation among member states and to facilitate the development of new partnerships with other regions. “Cooperation with North Africa will play a vital role in accelerating the deployment of renewables in the EU,” she said.

Dalli said that while the REPowerEU plan was aimed at increasing renewables, it was important to prioritise accelerating permitting procedures. The identification of “renewable acceleration areas” which would benefit from preferential permitting treatment is key.

“I hope that these new measures will concretely incentivise future investments and help us make the essential leap forward,” she said.

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