Letters | Sunday, 30 November 2008

Budget 2009 – pretending to be ‘green’

Following the publication of the latest supposedly “green” budget, I couldn’t help not sharing this remark with many others who had the same thought.
The absurdity of it all was borne out when the new “green” vehicle registration caused the price of hybrids to rise rather than fall, causing the importers of the only two hybrid vehicles in Malta to reconsider their importation!
The feeble incentives offered to the common citizen for using renewable sources of energy are really pathetic. Advertisers for photovoltaic panels are quoting prices with the government subsidy reduced. What they do not say is that the subsidy is only available to the lucky few who make it. I believe the subsidy is offered to the first 200 customers only. Surely this is misleading advertising.
When cold countries (such as Germany) are offering a rate for electricity from renewables that is four times that for electricity from fossil fuels, in Malta we are told that Enemalta will only offer a straight swop because the authorities are afraid of misuse!
The problem with Malta is that Enemalta (which is only a service provider) owns the distribution network. If Enemalta is also allowed by the Malta Resource Authority (MRA) to connect to the European network of electricity supply, we will have a monopoly. Enemalta will dictate the electricity tariffs because it controls the network. In mainland Europe, the distribution grid is not controlled by any single service provider.
With a distribution grid controlled by the MRA, and connected to the mainland grid, consumers can choose from whom to purchase their electricity and competitive tariffs will be available. Further, if the promised wind farm or solar farm get off the drawing board and connect to the national grid, they can offer their own system of tariffs.
Obviously, any Government will be very cautious in bringing on this situation for fear of causing Enemalta to go bankrupt because of its inherent inefficiencies. Hybrid cars are not available from all car manufacturers, so possibly certain car importers will cry blue murder if hybrids are properly subsidised as they would be left out.
If we really believe that we should start preparing for the European deadline for reducing greenhouse gases by 20%, then more direct incentives as the ones mentioned above should be implemented without further delay. The resulting tax penalties if these targets are not achieved would be worse.


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