Belgium should not accept blackout risks for the coming years

Analysis

The outlook of the Belgian electricity system is increasingly unpredictable and challenging. Belgium is confronted with a nuclear phase out in a liberalized European electricity market which is strongly impacted by climate and renewable energy policies. The investment climate for controllable, non-intermittent assets is very problematic. We present the evolution of the estimated reserve margin between 2014 and 2030 in Belgium based on the existing nuclear phase-out plan and with the inclusion of the recent safety issues in two nuclear reactors. Between 2014 and 2017, we expect the reserve margin to vary from -2% to -34% (-4973 MW). In case a new investment wave does not take off in the next decade, we find very negative and unsustainable reserve margins (approx. -60%) for the period between 2025 and 2030. Filling this capacity gap with biomass and gas assets between 2013 and 2030 would result in a cumulative investment costs of at least € 11-13 billion.  We estimate that about 24 new CCGT’s (300 MW) and 7 new biomass plants (300 MW) are needed in a “low peak demand” scenario while 28 CCGT’s (300 MW) and 9 biomass (300 MW) plants keep the reserve margin at the 5% level in a “high peak demand” scenario. We can conclude that the winter of 2014/2015 poses significant risks for a blackout. However, the next winters risk to become even more challenging.

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