Belgium on track to phase out nuclear power by 2025

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GlobalData’s latest report, “Belgium Power Market Outlook to 2030, Update 2021 – Market Trends, Regulations, and Competitive Landscape” examines the structure of the electricity market in Belgium and provides historical and forecast figures for capacity, production and consumption to 2030. A detailed analysis of the country’s electricity market regulatory structure, competitive landscape and a list of major power plants are provided. The report also provides an overview of the electricity sector in the country on major macroeconomic parameters, security of supply, generation infrastructure, transmission and distribution infrastructure, import and export scenario of electricity, degree of competition, regulatory scenario and future potential. An analysis of transactions in the country’s power sector is also included in the report.

Despite making up 39% of Belgium’s generation mix in 2020, nuclear power is on course to be phased out by 2025. The country is set to start shutting down the last of its power plants this year – to be replaced by wind and solar generation. Belgium currently has seven operational nuclear reactors, the majority of which are owned and operated by Electrabel and Luminus. The Doel 3 plant is expected to be closed this year, Tihange 2 in 2023, and the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 plants by 2025. This schedule is in line with a phase-out agreement signed in September 2020 and legislation passed in 2003 which prohibits the construction of new reactors. Following these phase-outs, generation is expected to fall to 29.4 TWh in 2022, then eventually fall to 0 GW in 2026.

Belgium’s nuclear phase-out will pave the way for rapid growth in renewable energies. The country is expected to exceed its 2030 targets, beating its wind power target of 6.5 GW by just under 0.85 GW and its solar photovoltaic (PV) power target of 6.9 GW by 4.9GW. This growth in renewable energy capacity will be fostered by the favorable renewable energy policies framed by the Belgian government, which include the Energy Transition Fund, green certificates and regional energy and climate plans in Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia.

Alongside renewables, Belgium will rely on gas capacity to meet electricity demand. Since 2009, the Belgian government had refused permission to build new coal-fired power plants in the country. With no coal-fired power plants and minimal oil-fired capacity, the country relies heavily on gas-fired power plants for thermal power generation – mainly combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plants, as they are efficient and emit less greenhouse gases than other thermal technologies.

The rapid exit from nuclear energy could endanger the country’s security of supply. In 2020, nuclear had a share of 39% in the Belgian generation mix. This share should fall sharply to become negligible in 2026. The country will have to quickly intensify the deployment of renewable and thermal capacities to fill this void created by the exit from nuclear power. Another challenge for the country is the growing share of renewables in the generation mix. As renewable sources are intermittent in nature, the amount of electricity generated from these sources varies greatly, especially for wind power, in which electricity generation is dependent on wind speed. The country will have to invest massively in energy storage solutions to compensate for the intermittency of renewable energies. In addition, the country will need to significantly expand its transmission and distribution network to enable the integration of renewables into the national grid.

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