The European Citizens Climate Cup (ECCC), which is co-funded by the European Commission’s Intelligent Energy Europe Programme, is a competition for Maltese households with the aim of showing how we can save significantly on electrical energy and beat the EU’s reduction targets.

The household saving the most electrical energy and implementing the most convincing energy-saving measures can win up to €2,000 and then compete against other European households for the European Cup.

There are many options for using solar energy at home – from solar-powered outdoor lights to solar energy for your hot water supply and also producing solar electricity with photovoltaic (PV) cells.

Malta is blessed with high levels of sunshine and has one of the highest solar radiation indices among EU countries. Malta experiences an adequate amount of sunlight for 80 per cent of the year.

Using solar energy to increase energy efficiency in the house does not always require solar technology or equipment. Many times, one just needs to take advantage of the sunshine that naturally penetrates through his windows to heat his home in winter, or letting the light through to reduce the use of lamps.

For very little cost, one can install a range of fun and interesting solar-powered lights around the yard, porch or driveway. These charge during the day and turn on at night by means of a light-sensing switch.

When shopping for outdoor lights, one will find that LEDs thrive in outdoor environments because of their durability and energy-efficient performance. LED bulbs can last from eight to 10 years and rechargeable batteries within the light fixtures will need replacement every two or three years.

Unlike low-voltage systems, which require very thick gauge wires that one needs to run around his yard, solar lighting is simple. If one does not like the way things look, changing the layout is also simple. No wires. No plugs. For good lighting performances, make sure the solar collector is in the sunlight all day long.

Solar water heating is highly recommended. The sun’s energy can be used to reduce the amount of electricity one consumes to heat water through flat plate collectors or vacuum tube type solar water heaters.

The government is currently offering grants to partially cover the expense of the installation of new solar water heating units (www.mra.org.mt).

When investing in a solar water heater, one should not only consider the economic benefit but also the benefits to the environment through the reduction of greenhouse gases produced by power stations when these burn fossil fuels to generate electricity.

The recent push by the government through the Residential Government Rebate Scheme covering 50 per cent of the capital cost of the PV installation has been a good incentive for households to invest in the installation of solar panels for electricity generation.

The installation of PV systems was further popularised with the introduction of the feed-in tariffs.

The amount of electricity generated by the panels is recorded by means of a smart meter and the household receives an income of €0.25 (€0.28 in Gozo) for every KWh (1 unit) of electricity generated. This feed-in tariff is guaranteed for the next eight years.

The capital cost for PV systems is high but they are relatively maintenance-free and carry up to 25 years performance warranty. Furthermore, the payback period to recover the initial cost is attainable within a few years.

Participating households are to input their energy consumption while making an effort to reduce their energy use in a race to the end. Participants compete in both a local and international competition with a €2,000 cash prize for the local winning household.

One can register online at http://mt.theclimatecup.eu , contact the Malta Climate Cup team via e-mail at malta@theclimatecup.eu or call 2142 0852 for more information.

The first 50 registrations will be offered an optional free energy audit and consultation by qualified engineers in your home with free advice on potential energy saving. The ECCC project is supported by the Intelligent Energy Europe Programme and is locally co-ordinated by Projects in Motion.

Food for thought

• Solar technologies are of benefit to the environment since solar power is a zero-emission electricity source.

• One megawatt hour (ca. 1,000 units) of solar-derived electricity avoids approximately one tonne ofCO2.

• During a 20-year period, a solar water heater can avoid more than 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

• Consider a PV system capable of producing 2482 kWh per year at an average of 6.8 units of electricity per day.

• This system would cost approximately €6,000 toinstall. This price does not include the €3,000 governmentgrant, which must be deducted.

• This yearly production of clean energy would give the household an income of €620 per year from the feed-in tariff and a pay-back period of five years to recover the original capital investment.

This article was compiled by the Malta ECCC.