Today, February 5, is Belgium’s Grey Day, the day when notionally the country’s green electricity production is used up. For the remainder of the year, Belgium will operate on nuclear and fossil-fuel energy.
Grey Day is not a fact, but a notion, similar to Tax-Free Day, when we stop working for the government and begin working for ourselves. But the notion is clear enough: despite the amount of coverage given to the trend towards green energy, despite huge subsidies for wind turbines and solar panels, and despite all the attention devoted to climate change, Belgium manages to supply itself with green energy for only 35 days in the year – one day more in 2020 than in 2019.
The latest European figures date from 2018, when Belgium produced 9.4% of its electricity from green renewable sources – up from 9.1% the year before. If we had used the total amount of green energy produced staring on 1 January, it would now be used up.
The 2018 figures still counted the UK, and of those 28 EU member states, Belgium came fourth-last, just ahead of Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands in last place. The table is led, not surprisingly, by Sweden, Finland and Latvia. Sweden in particular is far ahead on 200 days, with second-place Finland on 150 days. The EU average is 67 days, ending on 8 March.
Belgium also lags far behind in its growth of renewable energy. Between 2017 and 2018 growth was only 0.3% or one single day. That places the country in fifth-last place ahead of Slovenia, Finland, Austria and Poland. Top three countries for growth: Cyprus, Luxembourg and Bulgaria.
Even given the two-year delay in the figures, Belgium seems to have a mountain to climb to be able to reach its 2020 target of 13%, even though 2019 saw wind energy increase by 37%. But that is only part of the picture. Other factors influence the Grey Day calculation, including the greening of cars, total energy consumption, and increased insulation of buildings, including public buildings.
At current rates of growth, the 2020 targets could be reached by 2030, and the target of 100% green energy would be achieved in 300 years, rather than the 30 years set by the EU.