The feared blackouts have not (yet) materialized this winter, but without further investment, Belgium’s energy outlook remains dim.
Doel 1 was disconnected from the power grid on February 15 after 40 years of service. Doel 2 is scheduled to be taken offline later this year when it too reaches its end-of-life, and with the discovery of more micro-fissures in Doel 3 and Tihange 2, they will remain closed for the foreseeable future. While the government has increased the strategic reserve, the possible closure of four nuclear reactors still raises concerns about the security of Belgium’s energy supply.
The federal government agreement foresees the prolongation of Doel 1 and Doel 2 for another 10 years, provided an accord can be reached between the government and Electrabel, the plant operator. The government has set a November deadline for the talks.
As reported by RTBF, Philippe Van Troeye, CEO of Electrabel, recently said: "If we have to invest €700-800 million to prolong the Doel 1 and 2 reactors, a long-term vision and a legal and economic framework are necessary. We want guarantees… Since the nuclear phase-out was announced, we have been in a state of flux.” And therein lies the problem.
The Chamber has long said that businesses need predictability and stability, usually citing the case of corporate taxation, but this holds equally true for energy regulation.
In 2003, the government announced Belgium would wean itself from nuclear power by 2025, but this decision has been revisited several times. Instead of bringing certainty, it has become a question of will they or won’t they?
It is little surprise that no third parties have come forward to invest in Doel 1 and 2 alongside Electrabel, as the government had hoped.
The current situation is not tenable. Energy requires long-term planning. In turn, potential investors require a stable regulatory and fiscal environment. Prolonging Doel 1 and 2, while perhaps necessary in the short term, is only a temporary solution and helps put off tough decisions. Belgium must establish a credible and comprehensive long-term energy policy. Businesses require it.
Photo Credit: flickr / goya