Greenhouse gas emissions will increase when the planned phase-out of Belgium’s nuclear plants takes effect, according to the Federal Planning Bureau.
Five of the country’s seven nuclear plants – representing half of the Belgian energy production – have to shut down because they’re too old to guarantee safety, while also expensive to maintain, New Mobility reports.
Under the current plan, the government will close Doel 3 and Tihange 2 in 2022 and 2023, while Doel 1 and 2 the newer Tihange 3 and Doel 4 will be shut by 2025.
The energy supplied by the plants will mostly be replaced by supply from newly constructed gas power plants, and with it the Bureau forecasts that CO2 emissions could increase by as much as 12% by 2026.
The new De Croo government has however taken steps to mitigate the effect of the transition.
The Cabinet of Federal Energy Minister told The Brussels Times that the current government “has set up a technology-neutral investment mechanism that would limit the number of gas-fired power plants to a maximum of 2-3 plants, and a policy that prioritizes demand-side management, batteries and storage,” adding that the Planning Bureau based its calculations on data from 2019, stemming from the policy of the previous government that wanted to replace all nuclear capacity by gas-fired power plans. “The Planning Bureau does not take into account either the sustainability clause that will be enshrined in the contract of any gas-fired power plant participating in the auction, obliging them to take measures to ensuring zero emissions by 2050, and provide clear roadmaps towards that goal in 2026 and 2027.”
Belgium’s electricity mix in 2019 consisted of nuclear power (48%), renewable energy (18%), and fossil fuels (34%).
In 2020 greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 7,2% compared to 2019 due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
This year, nuclear energy still represents half of the total electricity offer, but will gradually be replaced by gas plants and increased share of renewable energy. The remaining part needed to supply the country with electricity will be imported.
This article has been updated to include comments from the Federal Energy Ministry.