Belgium’s Energy Conundrum

National Economy

The population of the Kingdom of Belgium is approximately 11.66 million people[1]. In 2020, 100% of the people in this West European country had access to electricity[2].

In 2019, Belgium’s economy was ranked 24th in the world in gross domestic product (GDP)[3]. The country’s economy[4] is dependent on the export of cars, refined petroleum, pharmaceuticals, diamonds, vegetables, and wheat gluten.

Environment Policies

In 2003, Belgium’s government committed to close all the nation’s nuclear power plants by 2025, even though nuclear energy generates zero greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2009, Belgium as a member of the European Union (EU) committed to the Renewable Energy Directive,” which requires each country to use renewable energy for 20% of its total energy needs by 2020 and 27% by 2030.

In 2016, Belgium as a member of the EU signed the “Paris Climate Agreement”[5]. The EU committed to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

In 2020, Belgium’s utilities used nuclear energy (39.4 %), natural gas (30.3 %), renewable energy (26.1 %), oil (4.1 %), and coal (0.1 %) to generate electricity in the country[6]. Wind, biomass, and solar are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Belgium.

Recent renewable energy projects in Belgium include:

  • 487 MW Offshore Wind Project – In October 2021, Belgium company, SeaMade NV commissioned the SeaMade offshore wind project at a site approximately 35 miles off the Belgium coast.
  • 5 MW Solar Project – In June 2019, French utility, ENGIE commissioned the Kristal Solar Park at a site approximately 40 miles northeast of the nation’s capital, Brussels.
  • 7 MW Floating Solar Project – In September 2020, Belgium company, Floating Solar commissioned a floating solar project on a lake located approximately 45 miles northeast of Brussels.
  • 2 MW Solar + Energy Storage Project – In October 2018, American engineering company, CMI Energy commissioned the Micro Réseau Intégré Seraing solar plus energy storage project at a site approximately 50 miles southeast of Brussels.

Conclusions

In 2020, Belgium generated 65.5% of the nation’s electricity from zero-carbon power plants. However, nuclear power generated the majority of the nation’s zero-carbon electricity.

Belgium has significant renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, and biomass. However, the nation has been slower than many EU countries to develop new renewable energy power projects.

Will Belgium be able to build sufficient new renewable energy projects to offset the power from the closure of the nuclear power plants in 2025? It is highly unlikely, given Belgium’s measured pace of developing new renewable energy projects.

What will Belgium do, if it can’t replace the power lost from the closure of the nuclear power plants with renewable energy projects? Belgium’s electric utilities will be forced to use more coal and natural gas to fuel the nation’s power plants, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Belgium is faced with an energy conundrum. Is Belgium committed to addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions? If so, will the nation close the nuclear power plants in 2025 and allow the utilities to increase the use of coal and natural gas?

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

[1] Belgium Population (2021) – Nov3ember 11, 2021, www.worldometers.info

[2] Access To Electricity (% Population) – The World Bank Group

[3] Gross Domestic Product 2019 – World Bank DataBank

[4] The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) – Belgium

[5] Carbon Brief – “2015: Tracking Country Climate Pledges”

[6] Our World In Data, Kingdom of Belgium: Energy Country Profile by Hanna Ritchie and Max Roser

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