Government hoping hydrogen will power Malta in the future

Miguela Xuereb

The government is aiming to shift from using natural gas to generate the bulk of Malta’s energy to hydrogen, Energy Minister Michael Farrugia said on Friday, though infrastructural and technological developments will be needed for this to happen.

Farrugia was rounding up debate on the financial allocation to his ministry when he revealed the government’s long-term ambition, as a part of its aim to ‘decarbonise’ the Maltese economy by 2050.

Burning hydrogen gas produces no carbon emissions: it only produces water, although water vapour is itself a greenhouse gas.

Hydrogen’s potential was also brought up by Labour MP Miriam Dalli, who had been actively involved in the energy sector during her time in the European Parliament. She had also been a part of Konrad Mizzi’s secretariat at the Energy Ministry between 2013 and 2014.

Dalli highlighted that the development of hydrogen power was still at its infancy, and that consequently, providing enough supply was still an issue. At present, one could only rely on so-called “blue hydrogen,” produced through the processing of natural gas. However, there are plans to develop the production of “green hydrogen” in the future: using renewable energy to create hydrogen from the electrolysis of water.

On his part, Farrugia highlighted infrastructural issues, noting that the European grid did not cover southern Europe. But he also revealed that discussions had been launched with a potential hydrogen producer in Sicily.

Minister walks back insinuation PN profited from HFO Delimara deal

Earlier in his speech, Farrugia rejected claims made by the Nationalist Party’s energy spokesperson Ryan Callus that the government had no new ideas on renewables. He said that whenever past administrations launched good initiatives, the government acknowledged their worth and built on them, but it also launched numerous schemes of its own.

He also questioned the vision presented by the PN, suggesting that the party failed to properly understand the subject or the expenses involved.

But in light of the controversial ElectroGas deal, the minister also highlighted the previous controversial power station project: the heavy fuel oil-fired Delimara plant which has since been converted to run on gas.

He lamented what he described as institutionalised corruption when environmental laws were revised in 2007 when the relevant tender was being evaluated, stating that this paved the way for the HFO proposal to win.

“Maybe their pocket was more important than people’s health,” Farrugia maintained.

The minister went on to question whether the deal “contributed to the rebuilding of the Nationalist Party’s headquarters.” However, after apparently realising the seriousness the allegation made, clarified to Deputy Speaker Claudette Buttigieg that he did not know whether this could be the case.