Malta has cleared a stumbling block in its quest to get EU funds for a future hydrogen-ready undersea gas pipeline.
Malta’s last proposal for EU assistance to build a €400 million pipeline was rejected by Brussels, which said Malta had not provided enough rationale.
The guarantee obtained this week, in the form of an EU ministerial derogation, is that such a pipeline project will be recognized by the EU as a Project of Common Interest, allowing the government to apply for finance under updated Trans-European Transport Network standards.
Malta was one of just two countries to receive such an exemption, the other being Cyprus, another island nation. Discussions between the EU Council, Commission, and Parliament are now required to confirm these derogations.
During an EU energy council meeting in Luxembourg, negotiations to secure the derogation took place. Energy Minister Miriam Dalli spearheaded the Maltese negotiations.
Malta needed a derogation after previous attempts to get money for an undersea pipeline failed, with Brussels rejecting the country’s application as it prioritized spending on gas projects.
The EU was also sceptical by Malta’s claim that the pipeline would be hydrogen-ready, and the government had focused its efforts in the months following its failure to gain finance for the €400 million project on redrafting its hydrogen pipeline plans.
Studies examining how Malta’s gas-fired power station could be converted to run on hydrogen are in the hands of the authorities.
A 159-kilometer long, 22-inch diameter hydrogen-ready pipeline between Delimara and Gela in Sicily is also proposed in the research.
Dalli urged at meetings in Luxembourg that member states like Malta should be connected to the European grid, allowing them to tap new energy markets like hydrogen.
She suggested that the EU should be aware of the realities of small states like Malta.
“This is the first step toward ensuring that when hydrogen is available in Europe, we will be able to apply for infrastructure that secures connectivity to European networks,” Dalli added.
Although technology is quickly advancing, hydrogen-fueled electricity is not currently available in Europe. The EU has stated that hydrogen power will be an integral part of the bloc’s energy system by 2030, with large-scale deployment by 2050.