Opinion: Opportunities of energy transition much greater than challenges.


The nuclear phase-out is not without its challenges, and yes, a few gas power plants are being added. However, there are so many opportunities arising for renewable energy and energy efficiency. We are truly embarking on the path towards a more sustainable society.

Our CEO Ronnie Belmans shares his vision on the energy transition.

The EU has provided a clear framework; the Green Deal is in place, and the objectives are being formulated. The main lines are clear: a 55 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, around 40 percent of final energy consumption from renewable sources, and energy efficiency improving by at least 32 percent by 2030. These are enormous challenges, and ten years is not long; the message is to start today and all work together in the same direction. We cannot afford a second round of fines in 2030, as those currently threaten to be delivered to the various governments.

Electric energy is an essential but limited energy vector: about 17 percent of final energy consumption is supplied to end-users via electricity. If we aim to achieve the total electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2030, we barely meet half of the European objective. The other half needs to be achieved through the electrification of cars, the use of heat pumps, advanced building renovation, and a whole range of other measures. This leads to an increase in electricity consumption, but overall energy consumption decreases significantly.

The investments should not be underestimated. However, they lay the foundation of our energy system for the next decades. The results of a recent study by EnergyVille are clear: by 2030, approximately 56 percent of electrical energy can be supplied from renewable sources.


What does that entail concretely? Much importation via a reinforced electricity grid, to take advantage of offshore wind developments in the North Sea. At the same time, the second concession for our coast must be fully developed, at least 2.3 GW of new wind turbines must be built on land (80 turbines of 3 MW each per year), and 16 GW of solar panels must be installed (with 350 W per panel, that’s 4.5 million panels per year). And yes, about four new gas power plants need to be built as well. Through all these investments, the CO2 emissions from that electricity system at that time will be less than 10 percent of the total emissions in Belgium now.

The renovation of homes and neighborhoods must be done in a way that increases comfort for the resident. Insulation at a sufficient level, combined with local energy production, heat pumps, and advanced low-temperature heat networks are elements that must be used flexibly. Architects and construction industry must be very innovative. The government needs to provide a framework without getting bogged down in excessive regulations.

For transportation, the electrification of the vehicle fleet is obvious. An electric car uses less than a third of the energy per kilometer traveled compared to a traditional combustion engine. Concerns such as limited range and insufficient charging points are very dubious. Cars with a range of 400 km or more are becoming the standard, and the sector will quickly provide sufficient charging capacity after clear government decisions. Studies show that intelligent charging systems can limit investments in the grids. The government needs to play a leading role in the electrification of public transportation. Investments are needed in distribution grids, both for conventional cabling and for intelligent control.

The high-voltage grid needs to be expanded, such as the construction of the Ventilus and Boucle du Hainaut projects for connecting the new offshore wind farms, but also towards the north, to make offshore wind energy accessible to the Belgian industry from the wind turbines in the North Sea.

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