Belgian gas consumption drops 18.5% but 'situation remains extremely serious'

Belgian gas consumption drops 18.5% but 'situation remains extremely serious'
Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo pictured during a visit to the Siemens Gamesa site, during the North Sea Summit, with Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, in the port of Ejsberg, Denmark, Wednesday 18 May 2022. Credit: Belga/Philip Reynaers

Belgium's gas consumption in the first six months of this year is 18.5% lower than during the same period last year, said Federal Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten in the Federal Parliament on Tuesday.

Figures from the manager of Belgium's gas network, Fluxys, show that the gas consumption of households and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has been 18% lower in the past six months than last year. A 26% decrease is recorded for the energy sector, and 11% for the industrial sector.

"Nonetheless, the situation is and remains extremely serious. We are preparing on all fronts and leave nothing to chance," Van der Straeten said in the Federal Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

Last week, she stated that Belgium’s Emergency Plan for Natural Gas (formulated in April) was constantly being refined and sharpened through consultation with the sector so it would be ready if needed.

Smart use is essential

In Parliament on Tuesday, Van der Straeten warned that "the painful reality" is that energy prices will remain high and may even rise more if Russia were to cut off the gas supply completely. "Although there is no indication of a supply problem, the situation is being evaluated every day. Smart use of energy is more important than ever."

The lower consumption partly has to do with the high prices due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but also the relatively mild weather this year: while 2021 started off with freezing temperatures, the winter this year was mild.

In April, the Federal Government launched the ("I have an impact") campaign, offering simple tips that can reduce the energy consumption of households and companies, to get through the 2022-2023 winter.

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In the longer term, however, insulating buildings is vital, Van der Straeten stressed. "Everyone in this country should be busy advising citizens to insulate houses as much as possible, instal solar panels and take energy-saving measures. That is a shared responsibility of all governments.”

Households and SMEs account for more than half of gas consumption in Belgium and the industry and the energy sector each account for about a quarter. While Belgium hardly imports Russian gas, it remains vulnerable to price fluctuations on the European gas market.

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