Nuclear Politics

Belgium / Grid Operator Warns Of 3.9 GW Capacity Gap From Nuclear Phaseout In 2025

By Kamen Kraev
3 July 2019

Grid Operator Warns Of 3.9 GW Capacity Gap From Nuclear Phaseout In 2025
Photo courtesy Creative Commons.
Belgium will need around 3.9 GW of new power generating capacity in order to cope with the shortage which is expected to arise from the country’s plans to phase out nuclear energy in 2025, Belgian grid operator Elia said.

Elia’s study on the adequacy and flexibility of Belgium’s electricity system between 2020 and 2030 said the figure also includes 1.5 GW of replacement capacity, which might be needed because of the uncertainties in neighbouring countries, including reduced availability of generation or interconnection capacities.

Elia said that a similar study in 2017 found a need for 3.6 GW of replacement capacity, but the figure has risen to 3.9 GW, because of the accelerated coal exit plans in neighbouring countries and especially in Germany.

The company said accelerated coal exits will require further measures to be taken because an additional capacity exceeding 1 GW will be needed between 2022 and 2025 even with nuclear power still in the mix.

Elia is therefore calling on the Belgian government to continue developing a planned capacity remuneration mechanism so that Belgium would have a “robust safety net in place to maintain security of supply from 2025 onwards”.

According to Elia, “an important first step was taken” in April 2019 with the amendment of Belgian law and the introduction of a capacity remuneration mechanism. Elia said that “work must continue unabated” for a formal European Commission notification procedure to start by the end of December 2019.

However, Elia warned that despite the work done over the past year Belgium “is not ready for any scenario”.

Elia said that an alternative scenario of a more gradual nuclear exit would also have a significant impact on the grid. A considerable replacement capacity would still be necessary because the need for upgrades to reactors whose operating licences are being renewed could cause outages and difficulties with their availability.

Belgium has a fleet of seven commercial reactor units – three at Tihange near Liège and four at Doel near Antwerp – providing more than 50% of the country’s electricity.

Plans to shut them down by 2025 were established in a law of 2003. They were confirmed in 2015 and by the current government of prime minister Charles Michel in early 2018. A special commission was set up at the time to assess the future impact of the phaseout. Its findings are still pending.

The Elia study is online: http://bit.ly/2FMuVeL

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