Plans for a gas pipeline linking Malta to mainland Europe "will not be discarded" despite a failure to secure EU funding for the project, Energy Minister Miriam Dalli has said.
Dalli said the government was continuing to look at all available options to strengthen energy connectivity between Malta and Europe and said that the pipeline project could be financed locally or through other EU schemes.
Dalli’s comments came after Malta's bid to build a 159-kilometre long pipeline to Sicily, which carries an estimated €400 million price tag, was not selected for funding by the EU Commission.
“We want to keep on working to have a hydrogen-ready pipeline that connects our country to Europe’s main grid,” Dalli said.
“We also want to work on having a mix of energy sources that are clean and readily available on the market. Right now, LNG is on the market, but hydrogen is the future,” the energy minister added.
Malta currently sources LNG from a floating storage unit berthed in Delimara, which supplies the fuel to a gas-fired power station operated by the Electrogas consortium.
Electrogas must buy LNG from Azeri company Socar at a fixed price until 2022, while Enemalta is contractually bound to buy just over $130 million of the gas from Electrogas every year.
Dalli explained that the main idea behind the ‘hydrogen-ready pipeline,’ which would funnel LNG gas through Sicily and hydrogen through Italy at a later stage, is to have the possibility of using both LNG and, eventually, hydrogen.
“Our promise was to leave the LNG tanker in place until we are sure the country can be serviced otherwise if necessary,” Dalli stated.
When pressed to elaborate on where Malta will source its alternatives from, Dalli was reluctant to eliminate any options on the table.
“We are looking at which schemes are available, particularly because of the EU’s shift towards green projects,” she said.
“If we go for a hydrogen-ready pipeline, it is because it falls within the remit of transitioning to the next step to reduce carbon emissions and the government’s targets to become carbon neutral by 2050,” Dalli added.
“Since the project falls under the category of common interest projects, funding options are still available, and we are assessing all of them. We are not saying that the gas option will be discarded,” Dalli said.
“The point of diversifying is to make sure that if we end up in a situation where an interconnector or power station is temporarily unavailable, we would also have the possibility of switching to a different source in the mean time,” she added.
In July of last year, the EU commission had already told the Maltese government to avoid gas pipelines.
Although the Maltese government had modified the gas-only bid to the hydrogen-ready pipeline Dalli made reference to on Tuesday, the revised bid was rejected anyway.
The EU’s overarching goal is to make hydrogen the EU’s main fuel source by 2025 - 2030.
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