Belgium easily avoided a blackout caused by issues with energy supply last winter, according to a study by CREG (Electricity and Gas Regulation Commission). “Just one look at the data shows that even with extreme weather we would probably not have needed to switch on the emergency reserve,” it explains. As for next winter, the available production capacity will remain more or less the same as last year, and the emergency reserve will be greater. This will make the whole system more reliable in case of unplanned unavailability or a spate of cold weather, points out the federal regulator.
A simulation exercise run by CREG proved that even with record winter conditions the emergency reserve would probably not have been needed in 2014-2015. CREG warns however that building up a strategic reserve to guarantee energy supply in case of a really cold snap is essential. They explain that the market can suffer from relative scarcity even at other times of the year, not so much because of a cold snap as because production sites may be less available and electricity interconnection may be complicated.
CREG’s research joins electricity providers in criticising the method developed by network manager Elia to determine the volume of strategic reserves. “The current method is opaque and leads to a scheduling of the activation of strategic reserves which is absurd in view of last winter’s observations, both under normal conditions (an average of 20 days’ scarcity) and under extreme conditions,” reckons the federal regulator. They add that monitoring by an independent entity is needed.