Report comes under fire for claims about negative outcome of nuclear exit

Report comes under fire for claims about negative outcome of nuclear exit
The security of Belgium's energy supply is expected to be compromised both after a partial and full nuclear exit. Credit: Jules Johnston/The Brussels Times

A report published on Thursday, which warned that the closure of all nuclear power plants in Belgium could result in energy prices rising and possible blackouts, has been criticised by energy experts.

Belgium reached an agreement on the country's exit from nuclear energy in December last year and decided to close all nuclear power plants by 2025. In March, the Federal Government is expected to make its final decision on the matter.

Research published on Thursday reported the potential impacts of complete closure, warning that this could put energy supplies under pressure and further increase the price of electricity, according to a simulation carried out by three researchers associated with the University of Antwerp (UAntwerpen).

However, these claims have now been criticised by energy experts for being incomplete and not including sufficient data, while one UAntwerp professor pointed out that the authors did not consult with the engineering faculty for their research.

Elia, Belgium's Electricity System Operator, said the study was very brief considering it reported a major impact on the outcome (blackouts). "This study only models Belgium while our country is part of a European integrated system," the company wrote in a statement to The Brussels Times.

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"Additionally, no or insufficient account was taken of other planned energy plants, demand-side response, the development of the future European electricity grid (with additional interconnectors), the change in demand through electrification, adequacy criteria, simulation scarcity, the system under stress, etc.."

This was mirrored by energy expert Pieter Vingerhoets, who criticised the study on Twitter. "A study that does not simulate foreign electricity flows, that does not take into account the evolution of electricity demand, and that concludes that there is more or less chance of blackouts? I would not dare," he wrote.

Reliance on gas imports

The decision to close all nuclear power plants followed weeks of lengthy and contentious discussions, including about the risk of causing energy shortages or price fluctuations, and the sacrificing of Belgium's energy sovereignty.

The researchers stated in their report that the nuclear exit would result in Belgium being more reliant on gas plants, and therefore more susceptible to hikes in gas prices. They also argued that this would result in Belgium becoming more dependent on energy imports from abroad.

"Our results indicate that about a third of the electricity required on an annual basis will have to be imported. This creates a heavy dependence on our neighbouring countries."

However, these concerns were taken into account during discussions; which is why the Capacity Remuneration Mechanism (CRM) was implemented, which accounts for the risks to ensure the security of the electricity supply.

The CRM allows businesses to bid to become integrated with Belgium's energy supply chain and then receive support according to the energy capacity they bring.

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