Open VLD and N-VA want Marghem to immediately establish a strategic reserve
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Open VLD and N-VA want Marghem to immediately establish a strategic reserve

Marie-Christine Marghem

Majority coalition parties N-VA and Open VLD are worried about the energy supply in Belgium this winter.  Bert Wollants (N-VA), MP and energy specialist, wants more details from Energy Minister Marie-Christine Marghem (MR), including the reasons for her decision not to build a strategic reserve for this winter. Wollants also questions the planning of operator Engie Electrabel. Open VLD demands that a secure supply of energy be maintained by Minister Marghem.

The potential power shortage in November, when six of  seven nuclear reactors will be out of service, will sharpen political emotions. 

In November, only one nuclear power plant will supply electricity to the country. The energy supply may therefore possibly be compromised. “I’m very worried now that we see  we cannot count on the power stations when we need them the most, and this when the minister decides not to build any strategic reserves,” says Wollants.

The federal Minister of Energy can reach into the strategic reserve and request the activation of electricity capacity if there is a shortage. However, Minister Marghem did not do this for the coming winter, after grid operator Elia – on the basis of information from Electrabel – announced that there would be sufficient electricity production.

“At the time it was decided, it seemed like a good idea, there was little criticism by both majority and opposition, but today we have to conclude that it was not the right decision,” Wollants said. “Looking back, we should have decided otherwise.”

Wollants now wants the subject debated in Parliament. He is also unhappy with the way Engie Electrabel plans its maintenance work. “If the situation had been better monitored, we might have had a better spread.”

Open VLD is even more demanding of the energy minister. The party asks for a secure energy supply in the coming winter, and wants absolutely no risk at all. “People and companies should be able to get through the winter,” says Open VLD chairman Gwendolyn Rutten. “That’s why we demand that Federal Energy Minister Marie-Christine Marghem immediately establish a strategic reserve to ensure energy supply this winter.”

If there is insufficient power, the disconnection plan comes into effect. According to that plan, Aarschot (Flemish Brabant) is one of the first municipalities that would be affected. Aarschot is the municipality where Gwendolyn Rutten hopes to become mayor.

To try to defuse the situation Marghem is currently in crisis negotiations with Elia and Engie Electrabel on the strategic reserve.

What is the strategic reserve?

The strategic reserve is based on non-operating Belgian power plants that are only used in times of a shortage of electricity. The decision to develop a strategic reserve is made by the government. Once the decision to maintain a strategic reserve is made, Elia, a transmission system operator, activates this reserve when it finds a short-term energy deficit.

Arthur Rubinstein
The Brussels Times