A strategic asset

Gas: a key part of Belgium's energy future

I. Gas: a key part of Belgium's energy future

Energy matters to all of us. It’s an important part of our daily lives, maintaining and sustaining the communities in which we live and work. We all need it every day to heat our homes, light our streets, power hospitals and schools and drive our businesses and industry.

Belgium needs energy. Exactly 630 TWh (Terawatt hour) per year to be precise . This energy currently comes from a number of different sources.

Fluxys Belgium’s view on the energy transition: Belgium's gas infrastructure is a strategic asset. It is a key instrument to help ensure a succesful and smooth energy transition with lower costs and greater benefits for consumers , industry and the environment.

As Belgium prepares for a more sustainable energy future, both natural and renewable gas will play an important role in achieving our national objectives. Together with renewable energy and the country’s electricity infrastructure, gas infrastructure will be a key building block for a secure, sustainable and competitive energy future.

Fluxys Belgium plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the national and European gas supply. As the national transmission system operator, we are committed to making sure everyone in Belgium has the energy they need, where and when they want it, at a competitive price.

But what policy framework should Belgium and its regions prioritise to unlock the potential of gas and help deliver a smooth energy transition towards a low-carbon future?


Back to top

II. Climate, energy and air quality: what commitments has Belgium made?

Belgium has made commitments to a number of policy initiatives that seek to reduce the country’s carbon footprint and air pollution in line with the COP21 Paris Agreement and EU climate, energy and air quality objectives. An additional commitment is the phasing-out of nuclear power by 2025.

On this basis Belgium and its regions are currently preparing an Energy Pact. It will map how a smooth and successful energy transition will be delivered, setting out guidelines for our country’s future energy mix, ensuring we all have access to the energy we need at a price we can afford.

We believe that these objectives can be best achieved if we leverage the existing gas infrastructure as this creates synergies with electricity and facilitates the deployment of increasing quantities of green gas as an additional renewable energy source.

Green gas - unlocking an additional renewable energy source: Green gas is carbon-neutral gas. It is produced from organic waste and can be used in the same way as natural gas for cooking and heating at home. Current estimates of the potential for producing green gas from organic waste in Europe are at least 1000 TWh per year. Green gas can also be produced by turning excess electricity from windmills into gas using power-to-gas technology. The technology exists but needs further development to become economical on an industrial scale. As wind power generation capacity grows, the potential of power-to-gas to feed green gas into the energy system increases accordingly.

Back to top

III. Making sensible choices

Belgium and its regions have a diffcult choice to make. The energy transition requires signifcant investment, while consumers and industry need certainty about the reliability and affordability of their energy supply.

Using the right type of energy for the purpose for which it is best suited will drive effciencies and deliver considerable benefts. Use them otherwise and the energy system becomes more expensive.

The right balance of all viable energy options will deliver the most appropriate solution. It needs to take on board a broad range of economic, environmental and social considerations.

STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE


Back to top

IV. Understanding the energy challenges

Security of electricity supply

Although society is becoming more energy effcient, it is increasingly relying on electricity. Delivering suffcient electricity will be exacerbated by the forthcoming phase-out of nuclear, which produces between 25 and 50% of Belgium’s power usage.

While renewables will be able to increasingly meet a larger proportion of our electricity needs, the transition to a low-carbon future will require enough flexibility from other energy sources to meet any gap in electricity supply for when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind isn’t blowing. Additionally as a small and densely populated country with a short coastline, there is a limit to how much capacity renewables from wind and solar can reasonably contribute to what the country needs.

As neighbouring countries also start to phase out their own nuclear and coal-fired power stations, we cannot assume we can depend on imports at any given time as they may not be available.

Climate change and air quality

A lower-carbon future means less CO2 emissions in the energy we employ for a wide range of uses, such as transport and heating. While renewables generate carbon-free electricity, so does nuclear. If the latter is to be phased out effciently, then we must be realistic in what other energy sources are available with enough capacity to meet the shortfall in supply.

Improving the quality of the air we breathe also impacts the choices Belgium makes in its future energy mix. Road transport and heating are among the primary sources of air pollution in Europe. It will be increasingly important to use the cleanest fuels available to reduce their impact on public health.

A competitive energy system

The energy transition will require signifcant investments and costs. In seeking to balance the country’s security of supply and sustainability objectives, the social and economic consequences must also be considered. It is important that the costs associated with the energy transition do not negatively impact consumers and industry, creating energy poverty and jeopardising industrial competitiveness.


Back to top

V. Planning for the future

What options are available? The only pragmatic solution is for renewables, electricity and gas to work together.

Electricity is not energy in itself. It needs a primary source to be generated. It also cannot meet the energy needs of both the heating and transport sectors on its own. Additionally the technology doesn’t currently exist to store electricity in suffcient quantities – especially between the warmer summer months and the colder winters. We can import it but it still needs to be generated somewhere and the infrastructure will need to be developed, which will have an impact on cost.

Renewables will increasingly replace other sources but their output is variable and will not provide electricity all the time, which is a concern especially in periods of peak demand. With its flexibility and existing infrastructure, gas provides the only reliable and credible partner.

As natural gas replaces nuclear, CO2 emissions will increase in the short term. However, increasing gas-fired electricity generation in Belgium will facilitate the phasing-out of carbon-intensive generation from coal plants in surrounding countries, helping to reduce CO2 emissions at a European level. With a view to the future, increasing quantities of green gas will be fed into the energy system, consequently leading to a decrease in emissions from gas-fired electricity generation in Belgium.

As the cleanest fossil fuel, natural gas will also support the energy transition by providing a flexible back-up for renewables and help to improve carbon emissions and air quality by replacing oil in transport and heating.

In the longer term green gas will be able to play an increasing role, providing an additional renewable source for the energy system.


Back to top

VI. A pragmatic solution

Gas is an existing energy source that is reliable and effcient, playing an important role in Belgium’s energy mix. In future it will be one of the key building blocks of the Belgian energy system. How can it fulfill this role?

Secure: Gas utilises infrastructure that is already available,
ensuring a smoother energy transition

  • Belgium’s gas-fired power plants are part of the solution to the nuclear phase-out in Belgium and decreasing generation capacity in surrounding countries by providing electricity when variable renewables or other sources cannot deliver
  • Gas also helps to secure electricity supply through decentralised production, for example with combined heat and power units
  • Gas is a more flexible energy source because it can be stored efficiently. It can therefore help ensure a consistent supply of energy
  • The gas and electricity grids are complementary. Making them work together will help deliver synergies and improve security of electricity supply
  • Making the most of Belgium’s current assets in gas-fired generation and gas infrastructure will position the country as a growing hub for the electricity system in Northwestern Europe

ALTERNATIVE ELECTRICITY GENERATION WILL BE REQUIRED AS BELGIUM’S NUCLEAR PHASE-OUT BEGINS AND LARGE AMOUNTS OF NUCLEAR AND COAL-FIRED GENERATION IS DECOMMISSIONED IN NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES

THE INCREASED USE OF RENEWABLES LEADS TO A CORRESPONDING INCREASE IN THE NEED FOR A FLEXIBLE BACK-UP

Sustainable: Gas and gas infrastructure contribute to a low-carbon future

  • Gas works in partnership with renewable generation in facilitating a lower-carbon future by providing the required flexible back-up
  • Green gas will become an increasingly important form of renewable energy providing an additional energy source to heat our homes and fuel our transport. It can take the form of biomethane produced from waste or hydrogen or synthetic methane produced from excess renewable electricity through power-to-gas technology
  • As renewable capacity grows and the country looks for the large-scale storage of electricity, power-to-gas technology provides the most effcient option, using the already available gas storage capacities
Quick wins
  • By replacing more carbon intensive forms of energy, gas is a low-cost solution that will help fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions significantly
    • Belgium’s carbon emissions currently amount to about 108 million tonnes per year. If half the fuel oil boilers and the old gas boilers in Belgium were replaced by more effcient condensing boilers, this would result in a carbon reduction of up to 3.9 million tonnes, or a drop of 15% in our residential carbon emissions
    • The use of natural gas as a fuel in transport also provides a quick and cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions. Switching to natural gas would reduce carbon emissions by 2.5 million tonnes, a reduction of 10% in carbon emissions in the transport sector
  • Both in heating and transport switching from other fossil fuels to natural gas would improve air quality by curbing emissions of particulate matter and sulphur dioxide by nearly 100%. And the move to green gas would curb carbon emissions altogether

FLUXYS’ VIEW ON THE FUTURE ENERGY SYSTEM

In the long run, Belgium’s gas infrastructure is an excellent platform for a renewable system in its own right, where green gas provides for high-density energy logistics and generates synergies with the electrical system.

Power-to-gas, the missing link: Through electrolysis of water, excess power generated by renewables can be stored as green gas, thus providing a viable solution to the challenge of storing electricity and making use of green electricity that otherwise cannot be used.

Competitive: Gas and gas infrastructure provide the energy system citizens and industry can afford

  • Electricity alone will not be able to meet peak energy demand unless massive additional investments are made in power generation capacity and upgrades to the grid. The cost of any new electricity infrastructure will need to be borne by consumers and industry
  • Belgium’s gas transmission and storage infrastructure is already available at competitive cost. It is cheaper to keep existing gas-fired power stations available instead of closing them down and either re-opening them afterwards or building new ones to provide the same capacity
  • Belgium’s energy system will still need gas in order to meet demand and help facilitate the energy transition. Gas infrastructure is ten times cheaper as a means to transport energy than electricity infrastructure
  • Gas - affordable storage: Gas infrastructure is not only a means to transport large amounts of energy low cost, the same goes for storage (comparison below is for short-term storage):
    • Underground gas storage:
      0.07 €/MWh (megawatt hour)
    • Power storage in batteries:
      >100 €/MWh
    • Hydro power storage at sea:
      79 €/MWh
  • It is cheaper to produce our own electricity from local gas-fired power plants than to import it from comparable facilities in neighbouring countries because the electricity does not have to be transported over long distances

HOURLY ENERGY CONSUMPTION IN BELGIUM

Gas - ability to meet demand

The gas system in Belgium is built to provide a peak energy load of at least 57 GW (Gigawatts) to cover energy demand for heating. The electricity system currently handles peak demand of up to 14 GW. For electricity to replace this capacity would require signifcant new investment at a considerable cost to consumers and industry.


Back to top

VII. The Fluxys Five – Our policy priorities

In order to safeguard Belgium's energy future and for gas to fulfill its future potential, the Energy Pact needs to:

1. Endorse gas as an integral part of Belgium’s future energy mix

  • Gas has a crucial role to play in power generation, heating and transport and industrial processes, now and in the future
  • Belgium's gas infrastructure through its flexibility enables renewable electricity generation to grow. It is also ready to provide an immediate response to the nuclear phaseout, providing time for the country to develop its energy system in the longer term
  • Suffcient gas-fired power generation will be required to facilitate the nuclear phase-out

2. Provide incentives to encourage a well-functioning and efficient energy market

  • We need a properly designed electricity market model providing a fair value for the availability of capacity and flexibility. This will keep existing gas-fired power plants with low running hours available in the transition to the nuclear phase-out and trigger the necessary investment in new facilities
  • Facilitate the energy transition by driving investments in new gas-fired power plants through stimulating initiatives like the Federal Investment Fund

3. Support innovation in gas technologies

  • Support research and development into renewable gas and innovative gas technologies such as power-to-gas in order to provide more solutions for the future energy system

4. Let technologies and industry compete in a fair market

  • Advocate at a European level a suffcient carbon price in order to stimulate low-carbon technologies and allow gas-fired power stations to be cheaper than coal-fired facilities
  • In addressing the energy transition challenge, use each energy source in the role that it is best suited for
  • The best low-carbon solutions should drive the market. A level-playing feld without favouring one technology over another is needed to meet Belgium’s energy demand in the most affordable way

5. Promote a stable and predictable regulatory framework

  • Ensure consistency in policy-making and regulation both at federal and regional level in order to foster a conducive investment environment, thereby lowering risk and uncertainty

Back to top

Questions about Fluxys Belgium’s view on the energy transition? Do not hesitate to contact us:

Rudy Van Beurden:
+32 2 282 72 30
rudy.vanbeurden@fluxys.com

Michel Van den Brande:
+32 2 282 73 90
michel.vandenbrande@fluxys.com

Tips for using search operators

Use "quotation marks" to search for a series of words or a phrase in a specific order.

Boolean operators

You can find a group of words or a phrase by using the link words AND, OR and NOT:
known as Boolean operators, these words are used to combine terms in the search field.

  • AND: All the search terms must be included in the publication. Typing in Apple AND Pear will return publications containing both the word Apple and the word Pear.

     

  • OR :  At least one of the search terms must be included in the publication. Typing in Apple OR Pear will return publications containing either the word Apple or the word Pear or both.

     

  • NOT: The term preceded by NOT must not be included in the publication. Typing in Apple NOT Pear will return publications containing the word Apple but not the word Pear.