Belgium is the only country in Europe to keep almost all of its streetlights on through the night as can be seen from pictures taken from space. The official reason is that it is good for road safety and security. But according to an article in The New York Times last week there are also other reasons linked to politics and the electricity market in Belgium. The marked is dominated by Electrabel which is Belgium’s sole nuclear power producer and its main energy supplier.
Until recently Electrabel also owned shares in public utility companies and appointed senior management in them. Last year the shares were sold but the companies are still repaying bank loans they took to buy out Electrabel’s shares.
Belgium’s system has “built-in conflicts of interest” and rewards local politicians in the boards of the distribution companies to keep the lights on, says Peter Reekmans, the mayor of Glabbeek outside Brussels, in the article.
A spokesperson for Electrabel denied in an interview that the company maintains any ties with the distribution companies.
The newspaper writes that Belgium’s share of renewable energy is around 7.8 percent, about half of the average in EU. The Belgian government has extended until at least 2025 Electrabel’s permits for seven nuclear power reactors that date from the 1970s.