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Will EU’s new energy policy spur job growth?

A European Commission impact study, which will be used in the negotiations for the successor of the current 20-20-20 climate and energy strategy, claims 1.25 million extra jobs can be created if the EU sets even more ambitious targets: reducing CO2 emissions by 40% and increasing the share of renewable sources in the energy mix to 30% by 2030.

This is a tantalizing prospect for Belgium, a chance to address the country’s persistently high unemployment rate and significant energy challenges at the same time. But this may all be pie in the sky. As a recent FEB/VBO energy study emphasizes, (potential) policies and studies are often put forward without a thorough understanding and without a transparent communication of the full social and economic consequences. To make sure that Belgium will ‘get a slice’ of the claimed extra jobs, decisions with regard to Belgium’s energy policy will have to be made.

Open questions

Belgium has already tied itself in knots over the nuclear question. Stricter emission and renewable energy targets, combined with the allure of job creation, only add to the urgency with which Belgium must set out a coherent, long-term energy policy. The planned phase-out of Belgium’s nuclear power stations will have serious repercussions on CO2 emissions (estimated to increase an extra 9.1 tons by 2030 due to the phase-out), energy costs and energy security. On its current path, Belgium will have no choice but to rapidly scale up energy production from renewable sources or increase its reliance on energy imports. Both have their drawbacks, and tough decisions will have to be made. To continue attracting foreign investment, especially in energy-intensive industries, Belgium must develop a credible and stable energy policy. A boost to employment would be a welcome ancillary benefit.