The lame duck government of Prime Minister Charles Michel has a draft law ready in support of gas power plants, as a replacement for the nuclear power plants scheduled to close in 2025. The government has also raised the possibility that it will build these power plants.
Minister of Energy Marie-Christine Marghem (MR) wants to build seven new gas power plants. According to Marghem’s plan, the power stations would start up within six years. But the closure of two large nuclear power plants is scheduled to take place in four years. Even if everything goes according to plan, the gas plants will not be up and running on time.
Marghem’s bill is now moving to the Council of State and should subsequently be given the green light in the Chamber. However, the government no longer has a majority there. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) was confident it would pass, saying: “It would surprise me if there is no majority in the Chamber to ensure the energy supply. I’m depending on the partners to ensure that the lights don’t go out.”
In the plan under discussion, the gas-fired power stations would be financed by a so-called capacity compensation mechanism, i.e. an additional subsidy. This means that the owner of the power station would receive a fixed fee for a predetermined quantity of electricity. The owner receives this amount in even when the electricity is not needed and the gas plants are idle.
This puts that the candidate builder in a very strong negotiating position. The market mechanism is being suspended and we will see the consequences of this on our energy bill. “This is the result of five years of non-policy,” says KU Leuven professor and CEO of Energyville Ronnie Belmans. “They waited far too long. The government did not want and did not dare to move forward. And now they are in a situation where things are no longer working. This is an emergency measure. This indicates that the government is panicking and panic is never a good counsellor,” concludes Belmans.