Luxembourg steelworks switch to Belgian electricity

Luxembourg steelworks switch to Belgian electricity
Credit: Belga / Dirk Waem

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’s steel industry has ditched French electricity supplies following months of issues at France’s nuclear power plants and high prices, according to Belgian newspaper L’Écho. Now, Belgian electricity imports have filled the gap, with Luxembourg buying power from Elia, the Belgian transmission system operator (TSO).

Elia’s half-yearly reports indicate that there has been a large spike in sales of electricity across Belgium’s southern border.

As the price of electricity goes up across Europe, Belgian electricity consumers have massively reduced their consumption of electricity. These power savings, it seems, have been completely wiped out by the tiny nation of Luxembourg, whose industry has made a remarkable shift to cheaper Belgian imports.

Belgium powers Europe's industrial heartland

Sotel, the Luxembourgish electricity network operator of multinational steel group ArcelorMittal, states that it has completely abandoned the purchase of electricity from France since January. Almost half of France’s 56 nuclear reactors have been shut down due to technical issues and repairs, pushing prices up across the country.

Through connections in Aubange, at the south of Belgium, Luxembourg now imports large amounts of cheaper Belgian electricity.

“This is a very specific situation that has developed over time,” Elia spokesperson Marie-Laure Vanwanseele told L’Écho. “It is a Luxembourgish company with a connection to the grid that allows it to draw its electricity directly from Belgium, but also from France or Luxembourg, depending on the market situation in various countries.”

Growing demand for Belgian power

ArcelorMittal’s steelworks, as well as steel furnace producer Paul Wurth and Luxembourg railways (CFL), drew around 1.5 terawatts of Belgian electricity in just one year, equivalent to 430,000 households or 2% of total annual electricity consumption in Belgium.

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ArcelorMittal has been buying French electricity since 2013 thanks to a high-voltage cable between the French town of Moulaine and the ArcelorMittal home base of Belva. This allowed Luxembourg to pivot away from the relatively more expensive Belgian electricity and buy directly from France, but this trend has since reversed.

Luxembourgish companies now pay €300 per megawatt hour in Belgium, compared to €500 in France. In Belgium, the price of household contracts have increased fivefold during the European energy crisis, while in France, they increased by eightfold. For businesses in Luxembourg, the switch to Belgian electricity is a logical decision.

Elia will soon explore the possibility of connecting Dutch companies to the Belgian network, if demand is sufficient. The Dutch provinces of North Brabant and Limburg are struggling to meet demand for electricity and cheap supplies could help alleviate the situation.

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