As energy prices skyrocket across Europe, particularly for gas, the cdH – Belgium's humanist democratic party – has proposed an energy cheque worth €100 for every household that uses gas.
This is one of a series of proposed federal and regional measures intended to mitigate the situation that has seen costs of energy rise across the continent and has lead to some shortages – most notably in the United Kingdom where multiple energy firms have already gone bust.
The cdH describes the refund as "a gas cheque that will get households through winter" and explains that it would be paid for by the increased VAT revenue linked to the rise in energy prices. In this way, the measure would not actually cost the Federal Government.
"This cheque would have no budgetary impact as the refund cheque would, in reality, just redistribute the additional revenue raised by increased VAT," François Desquesnes – leader of the cdH party in the Wallonia Parliament – explained.
Alongside the proposed gas cheque, the cdH highlights the need to move forward with renewable energy sources, citing the lack of legislative commitment: "no legal framework has been established to push for renewable energies." Aside from investment in renewable energy sources, the cdH calls for more financial support to help homeowners make environmentally-friendly renovations.
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In 2020, gas accounted for 34.4% of Belgium's energy mix, second only to nuclear at 39.1%. Renewables, although growing in year on year production, still only accounted for 18.6% of the mix in 2020.
Furthermore, as nuclear energy is gradually phased out Belgium, the question of how to make up the energy shortfall becomes more pertinent, with gas due to play a greater role in energy production.
On this matter, Desquesnes is critical of the plans to move away from nuclear energy, instead favouring a prolonging of the two newest reactors: "Given the lack of an alternative plan and the climate emergency, these two reactors should be renewed until at least 2035 or 2040."
As world leaders are due to meet at the beginning of November for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), the question of cutting greenhouse gas emissions will be pushed to the top of political agendas, even if the rhetoric lacks the will to actively engage in this struggle.
Whereas gas is a highly polluting fossil fuel, nuclear energy does not emit greenhouse gasses and is one of the most efficient energy sources available.
Statistics from the Commission for Electricity and Gas Regulation (CREG) show that energy bills in Belgium will increase significantly. Average electricity bills will increase from €814 in 2020 to €1014 in 2021; average gas bills will increase from €825 in 2020 to €1609.