On the one hand, the federal energy minister, Tinne Van Der Straeten (Groen), is certain that the country will end its production of nuclear energy by 2025. On the other, Rajae Maouane, president of sister party Ecolo, says that the matter will not be treated as “a question of dogma”.
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The question of stopping production of nuclear energy – the so-called nuclear exit – has been included in the governing accords of the new government under Alexander De Croo (Open VLD).
However, while the will is there, a final decision will not be taken until a feasibility study is produced in November next year, looking at the country’s ability to provide itself with energy. If the study raises doubts, the government may have to adjust its timetable.
Asked if that would be a problem for Ecolo, Maouane replied, “We are in favour of energy transition. We are not in an all-or-nothing position. We will not leave nuclear power overnight, that has to be prepared for, especially on the issue of security of supply”.
Van Der Straeten, meanwhile, remains “100% convinced” that the nuclear exit will take place in 2025, but she is not about to mount to barricades. Instead, she is relying on the preparation referred to by Maouane.
“We will continue to monitor the supply question, but if we hold our course, nuclear energy will become superfluous by then,” she told De Zondag. And to make that possible will require a hard-headed pursuit of alternative energy.
“Our windmills should be our national pride. Them, chocolate and beer are our best export products. We are number four worldwide in the field of wind turbines at sea,” she said.
Other avenues to explore include supply contracts for energy from neighbouring countries, and better ways of storing electricity produced by clean methods, such as solar panels.
All the same, even if nuclear will no longer be needed by 2025, some older dirty energy will still be around.
“Gas-fired power stations will be needed, but only temporarily, in the transition phase,” she said.
“If there is enough renewable energy, they can easily be switched off.”