The national policy for offshore renewable energy, launched for consultation, is “narrow-sighted” and fails to mention potential offshore geothermal energy sources that provide a stable and constant supply of energy, according to the Malta Chamber of Geologists.
“It refers only to offshore wind and solar energy projects which are climate-dependent sources of energy when the climate itself is changing and becoming less predictable,” Peter Gatt, president of the chamber, said in a statement published in reaction to the first national policy for offshore renewable energy launched for consultation on Thursday.
The policy document includes plans to have the first wind or solar floating farms located between 12 and 25 nautical miles off the island’s shores.
Six sites have been identified as potential areas where the floating farms could be located.
While it is widely recognised that the Maltese islands are limited by their spatial ground area of 316km2, the country through its geographical location in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, has a potential exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of over 70,000km2, which is much larger than its land area, ministry officials said.
Gatt said the chamber had long been campaigning for the utilisation of Malta’s vast EEZ for Malta’s energy needs.
“The EEZ offers immense potential for the development of natural gas and possibly hydrogen resources which Malta has failed to develop in the past decade, resulting in the country’s dependence on imported energy.”
Malta remains the only European country that lacks a national geological service that gathers data on land and seabed geology
Nevertheless, the chamber remarked on the short-sightedness and narrow-sightedness of this public consultation document.
It noted that the document identifies several offshore sites for the development of solar and wind energy without any reference to prior basic knowledge and understanding of seabed geology on which these projects depend for anchorage.
Gatt said the chamber had not been consulted in drawing up the document.
Yet, the success of these offshore projects depended on the seabed geology and its suitability for such projects, whereas the public consultation document only considered geological aspects after the offshore sites were selected.
Gatt said the ‘updated’ geological map of Malta’s land area issued last year by the Continental Shelf Department already contained multiple errors and replicated the significant stratigraphical omissions and mapping errors of the past.
“Malta remains the only European country that lacks a national geological service that gathers data on land and seabed geology. This lacuna places Malta and its people at a disadvantage while increasing risks and costs,” he said.
The public consultation opened on Thursday and will go on until the end of September after which the feedback will be evaluated and an international call for expression of interest will lead to the shortlisting of bidders. Those bidders will then be invited to bid again in another request for proposals.