Belgian energy consumption fully covered by wind and sun for first time ever

Belgian energy consumption fully covered by wind and sun for first time ever
Credit: Belga

A record amount of electricity was generated by wind and sun at around midday on Whit Monday, enough to cover just about the entire electricity consumption of Belgium for the first time ever.

For a short while on Monday's sunny bank holiday, solar and wind energy alone generated enough power to cover the entire country's demand, according to preliminary figures from high-voltage operator Elia. This marks the first time this phenomenon has happened in Belgium.

Specifically, 8,303 megawatts of electricity were generated by renewable energy between 13:00 and 13:30 on Monday, while on Sunday, 7,695 megawatts were produced during the peak.

Belgium's power demand amounted to about 8 gigawatts, which on average, is lower than usual. Elia noted that, on both days, the previous record of energy generated by solar and wind, which was 7,112 megawatts, set in 2022, was broken.

Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten argued this was proof that the energy transition is “coming up to cruising speed. This weekend we got a glimpse of our green energy future. The more wind and solar, the lower the prices," she said.

Balancing the grid

However, Van der Straeten also argued that this requires more flexibility from the system. In particular, she pointed to the surplus of electricity which occurred over this weekend due to high production and low consumption, resulting in another historic first: negative imbalance prices of -€658 per megawatt hour.

To balance the power market, large consumers are then paid to start consuming power, while wind turbines were also to be shut down, a move that was criticised by Van der Straeten.

“Shutting down windmills, which produce cheap electricity, when the wind is blowing, is a situation turned on its head,” she said, adding that the construction of battery farms should therefore provide the necessary flexibility for improved conditions.

Meanwhile, Elia argued that the shutdown of wind turbines shows the importance of getting as many consumers as possible to participate in the market by using their flexibility – in the form of a heat pump or an electric car, for example.

“Such a consumer-oriented market model should ensure that everyone can benefit from such low or even negative prices. That way, people are financially rewarded when they consume electricity at times when there is a lot of renewable energy and also help keep the grid in balance."

Electricity was extremely cheap on the wholesale market over the last weekend, with prices as low as -€90 per megawatt hour at some points. Even "ordinary" energy consumers with variable contracts will receive compensation for their purchase of electricity.

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