Belgium’s energy future challenged by climate change
Every three years, the Federal Planning Bureau releases a publication on the long-term energy projections for Belgium, based on the energy model PRIMES. This Planning Paper is the third in the series and puts the emphasis on the link with climate change. Amongst other things, a baseline and a selection of emission reduction scenarios for the period after 2012 are described.
Under baseline assumptions, national requirements for coal and natural gas rise between 2000 and 2030, mainly because the nuclear power plants are phased out. The surge in renewable energy sources (RES) is noticeable (4.2% on average per annum): in 2030 they represent 5.2% of the total national energy requirements. The energy intensity of GDP falls every year by 1.9% on average, notwithstanding an economic growth of 1.9% p.a. and a growing population (0.2% p.a.). Final energy demand increases by 10% during the period 2000-2030. During that same period, electricity production expands from 82.6 TWh to 112 TWh and is mainly generated by fossil-fuel-based thermal power units (99 TWh), while RES produce the balance (13 TWh), as the last nuclear plant closes down in 2025. In 2030 the share of RES covers 12% of power production. Between 2000 and 2030, the total installed capacity expands by 50% because of (1) growing electricity demand (+1% p.a.), (2) diminishing net imports, (3) a larger share of (intermittent) RES that necessitate back-up capacity. Translated into energy- related CO2 emissions, this boils down to an increase of 25.2 Mt (from 114.7 Mt in 2000 to 139.9 Mt in 2030). In 2030, the CO2 emission level is 32% higher than registered in 1990, the base year of the Kyoto Protocol.
Post 2012 scenarios
Because this CO2 level is unsustainably high, the baseline analysis is complemented by scenarios in which CO2 or GHG emissions are reduced. The impact of these eductions on primary and final energy demand and on power production is scrutinised. A selection of reduction scenarios is made according to three methodologies. First, a reduction objective at the European level is determined (reduction of European GHG by 30% in 2030 compared to the level obtained in 1990), which translates into a carbon value (200 EUR/t CO2) that is identical for all economic sectors and countries. The implementation of the carbon value has, through behavioural changes in consumption and technology choice, an impact on the Belgian energy system and its CO2 and GHG emissions that differs according to the energy policy context, i.e. whether there is access to nuclear power or not.
Second, a Belgian objective is specified (reduction of Belgian energy-related CO2 emissions by 15% in 2030 compared to 1990). Again, in this case, different energy policy options (access to nuclear power, to carbon capture and storage or to neither) can help to realise this target:. The reduction principle stays the same: objective carbon value change in the behaviour of the energy producers and consumers (consumption, technology choice) in such a way that the objective is met.
The third methodology considers the impact of energy efficiency. The Energy Efficiency Green Paper of 2005 stated that with today’s technology, it is possible to save around 20% of European energy consumption by an increase in energy efficiency on a cost-effective basis. Several directives have been adopted that, when fully implemented, will help to exploit large parts of this potential. The modelling of this effi-scenario assumes the full implementation of these directives.
Some key results of the three types of scenarios (1 baseline, 5 emission reduction scenarios and 1 energy efficiency scenario) are briefly described. For the emission reduction scenarios, the national requirements for natural gas and the share of RES rise the most when nuclear energy is not part of the energy mix. The non-nuclear emission reduction scenarios also have the lowest energy consumption. When nuclear energy is allowed, the production (and consumption) of electricity augments the most. The impact of the effi-scenario can mainly be seen in the final energy consumption and in the electricity generation (that, in its turn, influences the natural gas’ needs). The share of RES in national energy consumption and electricity production changes only slightly compared to the baseline.