Nuclear exit: Federal energy regulator raises concerns for energy security

Nuclear exit: Federal energy regulator raises concerns for energy security
The nuclear power plant in Grohnde in the Hamelin-Pyrmont district in Lower Saxony. Credit: Pixabay.

A prematurely-published report from Belgium’s Commission for Electricity and Gas Regulation (CREG) that appeared only briefly on the federal energy regulator’s website on Friday calls into question whether the country’s energy supply can withstand the closure of its nuclear power plants.

According to the non-final version of the CREG report, the planned gas power stations will be insufficient, raising doubts about the already-divisive nuclear phase-out, VRT reports.

The report also called into question calculations made by Elia Group, which manages the high voltage distribution of electricity in the country.

CREG and Elia are crucial players in the plan to phase out Belgium’s nuclear power, but CREG’s leaked report claims that Elia's calculations are incomplete and as a result have errors.

Not enough energy to sustain the country without nuclear

CREG did deduce from figures presented that there will be a need for one or two additional gas-fired power plants in 2026, on top of the two currently planned, in order to meet energy demand without the nuclear reactors.

“The parameters in the Grid Operator Report lead to an additional need for at least one, possibly two, large CCGT units, on top of the 2 CCGT units (Vilvoorde and Awirs) that were already contracted in the 2021 auction,” the report says.

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The report isn’t the first to call into question the wisdom of abandoning nuclear power. Researchers associated with the University of Antwerp published their own report warning that doing so could put energy supplies under pressure and further increase the price of electricity, though their findings were heavily criticised by others in the energy sector.

Reported errors in calculations about energy supply

The report from CREG contained the word “error” 21 times, and pointed out major discrepancies with Elia’s figures. In one sentence, CREG stated that they believe “the preparation of the Network Operator's Report was at the very least careless.”

They also said that the Grid Operator Report, “as published by Elia on 23 December 2021, contains too many errors.” The regulator acknowledged the premature publication of the report and said that the finalised version “will be published as soon as Elia has provided additional information.”

Elia says the process is still ongoing, and the company will not comment at this time.

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