Share article:
Share article:

Belgian energy imports break record

© Belga
© Belga

Belgium has never been so dependent on other countries for its electricity supply, despite record production by natural gas-fired power stations. Almost a quarter (22%) of the electricity consumed in 2018 came from abroad, according to preliminary figures from the grid operator Elia. This is far more than the year before, when imports accounted for barely 8% of consumption. The cause for this significant jump in electricity imports is primarily due to the shutdown of several nuclear power stations. As a result Belgium had to quickly find new power suppliers. Nuclear energy production, which covered 50% of consumption in 2017, fell to barely 34%, with historical lows in October and November, when hardly a nuclear power plant was in operation.

The capricious nuclear power plants were largely replaced by gas power plants, which underwent an unexpected revival. In November, no less than 43 percent of the Belgian energy mix came from gas, the highest percentage ever. Electricity producer Engie/Electrabel and Energy Minister Marie Christine Marghem (MR) had to pull out all the stops. Old and non-operational or heavily polluting gas turbines were also reconnected to the grid.

Wind and solar energy were also part of the power mix. In 2018, another record amount of renewable energy was produced. The sun also shone: in July it produced 8% of all the energy generated that month. 

Nevertheless, Belgium remained very dependent on foreign countries, especially France and German. In 2018, one import record after another was broken, with the highest import levels at the very end of the year. On 26 December, Belgium imported 5,234 megawatts at a certain point in time, which comes close to the total of the entire Belgian core park (5,920 megawatts). 

This high level of imports is not only due to the shutdown of nuclear power plants. It is also a reaction to lower prices abroad, making it more attractive for electricity suppliers to purchase their electricity outside Belgium.

Through better agreements and cooperation with the European system operators, Elia has succeeded in significantly raising import levels. In the meantime, additional input lines are being built. Last week, the Nemo Link, an electricity connection with Great Britain, was tested for full capacity for one hour. According to current timrframe, the cable – which accounts for 1,020 MW, the capacity of a nuclear power plant – should become fully operational in the first quarter of 2019.

That will probably be too late to help lighten the next phase of tension on the Belgian energy market. When a shot of winter weather hits in January or February, energy suppliers will have to work hard to scrape together enough energy to meet demand.

Arthur Rubinstein
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Mayor wants to close two Brussels bars where alleged sexual assaults took place
Ixelles' Mayor Christos Doulkeridis (Ecolo) said that he’d like to close the two bars that employed a man accused of raping multiple patrons, ...
‘Untenable’: Mayor says situation at Brussels North station is out of control
The situation at Brussels North Station is no longer tenable, Schaerbeek's mayor Cécile Jodogne (Défi) says. Drug dealing, homelessness, ...
Suicide second-leading cause of death among European youth
Suicide is the number two killer among young people living in Europe, a recent Unicef report on the state of their mental health found. The ...
‘Too little, too late’: Brussels mayors criticise CST implementation
After a two week delay, the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will become mandatory in several situations in Brussels from today (Friday). Some mayors blame a ...
Sciensano expert warns of rising Covid-19 cases this winter
The return of colder weather and the relaxing of health measures are giving rise to new Covid-19 contaminations and hospitalisations around Belgium, ...
Hospital food is making you sick, Belgian study shows
Eating hospital meals results in a measurable decline in health, according to a report from the Flemish television network VTM, which paints a ...
Belgium in Brief: Supply Issues
There are few things more jarring than walking into a store and finding that the shelves are empty, be that partially or otherwise. One thing ...
Stolen Magritte painting on display for first time in ten years
Surrealist painter René Magritte's work "Olympia", which made headlines across the world when it was stolen from a museum in Belgium in 2009, will be ...
Brussels airport pilots ’15 minute’ PCR test
Brussels Airport has announced that it will soon begin a trial of an ultra-fast PCR test able to detect Covid-19 in 15 minutes, a far faster ...
Over 1,000 demonstrators march in Brussels following sexual assault allegations
Around 1,300 people gathered in Ixelles on Thursday night to march against sexual violence, according to reporting from Bruzz. The march was ...
Covid Safe Ticket mandatory in Brussels, but no fines yet
The Brussels-Capital Region will expand the use of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) from today (Friday), but it will take a few days before rule-breakers ...
Belgium hosts ‘farewell party’ for Merkel today
Angela Merkel will be in Belgium on Friday for an official visit as a symbolic "farewell" before leaving her position as German Chancellor after 16 ...