Of Belgium’s three regions, Brussels has the greatest energy consumption. This leads to hefty bills not only in the private sector, but also for public infrastructure. The city’s transport sector in particular is sensitive to fluctuating energy prices, research from the Brussels Institute for Statistics and Analysis (BISA) shows.
BISA calculates that economic activities in Brussels are on average less energy-consuming than in the rest of the country, with agriculture and industry playing a lesser part in the region's economy.
Transport sector hit hardest
The transport sector is the most sensitive to fluctuating energy prices, according to BISA's study. This is followed by the processing industry, the catering industry and recreational activities.
Unlike the other regions, the transport sector in Brussels is more dependent on electricity than on petroleum products. “This can be explained by the predominance of public transport in Brussels,” said BISA.
“Rail activities (trams, metro, trains) are highly dependent on electricity and therefore saw the strongest increase in energy costs. Taxi companies and STIB are also strongly affected by the increase in energy prices.”
Brussels is more dependent on electricity than the other regions. It accounted for 49% of energy costs of Brussels companies in 2019. This is followed by petroleum products (43%) and finally gas (8%).
In the rest of Belgium, economic activity is mainly dependent on petroleum products, which represent on average 51% of companies' energy costs. Electricity and gas account for 41% and 8% of the energy products consumed, respectively.
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Since the Brussels economy is more dependent on electricity than on oil, its energy bill is more sensitive to the current sharp rise in electricity prices. For example, between 2019 and 2021, the share of energy costs in turnover increased more sharply in the Brussels region (+44%) than in the rest of Belgium (+32%).
The resilience of Brussels companies will depend on better controls on their energy costs, according to the study.
“There are several investment options to reduce energy costs,” it sounds. “But these often require a significant effort in terms of innovation and are based on rigorous analysis. For example, the NMBS has equipped its locomotives with energy meters and the STIB is studying the possibility of running its vehicles on hydrogen.”
“We also see that the taxi federations are advocating the introduction of regional support to enable an energy transition of the vehicles,” BISA said. “It shows the complexity of the situation. Companies need to keep investing to better control their energy costs, but at the same time, their borrowing capacity has bottomed out.”