04.10.2016_No55 / News

Mix Of Nuclear And Renewables Is Only Way Forward For Belgium, Says PwC Study

Policies & Politics

4 Oct (NucNet): Belgium will only achieve stable energy prices, guarantee its security of electric supply and meet climate objectives if it combines renewable energy sources and long-term nuclear in its energy mix, a study concludes.

The Doel nuclear power station in Belgium.

The study, which was carried out by PwC Enterprise Advisory (PwC) and published by the Brussels-based Belgian Nuclear Forum (BNF), says the only scenario that allows for a maximum reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050 is one under which renewable energy is combined with Belgium’s existing 6 GW of nuclear capacity.

The study focuses on Belgium’s energy transition policy towards 2030 and then beyond until 2050.

It says that without nuclear energy Belgium will face by 2050 a significant increase in CO2 emissions despite the expected “massive” development of renewable energy capacity. The cost and competiveness of electricity produced locally will also be hit by an eventual nuclear phaseout, the study concludes.

To secure the stability of its power supply, Belgium will need to either start importing energy or invest in “expensive” thermal power stations, the study says.

PwC developed three scenarios in its analysis, based on three main criteria: the state of power supply, the competitiveness and stability of electricity prices, and climate objectives.

The first scenario sees a phaseout of nuclear energy from 2025 onwards as laid out in existing government policy. The second scenario examines a transitional situation with half of the current annual nuclear generation, about 3 GW, kept in commercial operation until 2050. Under the third scenario, all of Belgium’s nuclear capacity of about 6 GW will remain commercially operational until 2050.

The three scenarios assume identical growth of renewable energy between 2016 and 2050, from about 16% today to 44% in 2030 and 67% in 2050.

In terms of CO2 emissions, PwC’s estimates show that in the event of a complete nuclear phaseout, total CO2 emissions will be 31% higher in 2030 and 17% higher in 2050 compared to existing levels of about 30m tonnes of CO2.

According to the study, under the second scenario, cutting Belgium’s nuclear capacities in half will mean the country will have to cover 14% (16.5 TWh) of its electricity demand through imports or conventional thermal generation, both sources of supply being “less efficient economically and ecologically”. In the event of a nuclear phaseout, this dependency will increase to about 32% (37.6 TWh), the study says.

The third scenario, in which renewable energy is combined with Belgium’s existing nuclear capacity, is the only one that allows for a maximum reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050, the study concludes.

The increasing share of renewable energy is in line with Belgium’s ambitions to create a low-carbon economy, but the increase in the share of renewables in the scenario without nuclear power does not improve the economy’s carbon balance, the study says.

The study concludes that a mix of renewable and nuclear energy sources “seems to be the most appropriate” way to meet domestic demand. It might also guarantee Belgium’s capacity to meet short-term demand for electricity exports. According to the BNF, the study confirms “unequivocally” that nuclear power can complement the development of renewables. This relationship would guarantee a reliable, affordable and sustainable energy mix, which is fully in line with Europe’s energy strategy, the BNF said.

There are seven reactor units in commercial operation in Belgium, four at Doel and three at Tihange. Together, they generate about 46% of the country’s electricity.

In December 2011, the previous government confirmed that it would close all Belgium’s commercial reactors in line with a phaseout law of 2003.

Doel-3 and Tihange-2 are both scheduled to close when they reach the end of their 40-year lives in 2022 and 2023, while Doel-4, Tihange-1 and -3 are closing in 2025.

The government has also extended the operation of Doel-1 and Doel-2 from 2015 to 2025.

The report is online (French and Dutch): http://bit.ly/2dAZYO6

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Kamen Kraev

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