Energy independence, a "question of national security" for the Belgian government - Trends-Tendances - economic news in real time.

Energy independence, a “question of national security” for the Belgian government – Trends-Tendances – economic news in real time.

Following the announcement by the federal government and Engie of an agreement in principle on the 10-year extension of the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear reactors, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Energy held a press conference this Friday morning. And the message is clear: Belgium must move towards energy independence.

A first agreement in principle has been reached between the Belgian State and Engie on the extension of the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear power plants. The Belgian government takes its responsibilities so that our country can control its energy supply“, said this morning Alexander DeCroo.

An ad that follows to that made by the European Commission on Wednesday, calling on Member States to reduce their gas consumption. The war in Ukraine and Putin’s desire to put pressure on those who support the invaded country push Europe – and therefore Belgium – to energy independence.

The European Commission has called for a reduction in gas consumption in Europe by 15% between August 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023stating: “all consumers, governments, households, owners of public buildings, electricity suppliers and industry can and should take steps to save gas“. In this context, the Belgian government has therefore decided to go nuclear.

“A question of national security”

In May 2022, statistics published by the European agency Eurostats showed that the Belgium was, in 2020, dependent on Russian oil at 46%, coal at 36% and 8% natural gasto arrive at a total of 24% of its energy mix. Russian imports that weigh on the Belgian economy.

The current instability thus reminds the government that geopolitical balances can switch very quickly. And for a country that imports a total of 78% of its energythe risk today seems too big. And the Minister of Energy Tinne Van der Straeten hammered home during this Friday’s press conference, “energy has become a matter of national security“Words echoed by the Prime Minister.

The latter confirmed that this decision had been taken in a “context of a war on the European continent“and for the purpose to achieve energy independence. The Minister of Energy, for her part, underlined their objective of ensuring “the safety and tranquility of citizens and businesses […]” .

Wanting to emphasize the solemn aspect of the moment, Alexander De Croo indicated that it was “the first time in history“that the Belgian State took charge of his energythat “forming part of the key missions of a State” for “strategic issues” and once again, “national security issues“. Finally, the energy having a strong impact on the economythe Prime Minister simply stated that “we [le gouvernement belge] have our say“.

What future for Belgian nuclear power?

Alexander De Croo confirmed that all “ongoing preparations“were organized in such a way that reactors resume service by November 2026 (subject to regulatory approval). The idea is to prolong life of the two 10-year-old Belgian nuclear reactors and to operate them in a joint venture to be created between the Belgian State and the French group Engieaccording “agreement in principle“.

The two parts are currently negotiating the terms of this extension announced in March and hope to reach a definitive agreement by the end of the year. This with the aim of subsequently submitting it to the European Commission, in charge to evaluate the emergency plans of the Member States by the end of September. They must indeed show how they intend to achieve the gas reduction targetand thus submit a progress report to the Commission every month or two.

For now, the Belgian State and Engie have agreed “modalities regarding the future approach, timing and framework of the negotiations” with a view to this definitive agreement. The reactors concerned – Doel 4 and Tihange 3 – together represent a 2 GW nuclear capacity. They will be managed by “a new company to be created“, presented on the Belgian side as “a stable and sustainable structure in which the Belgian State and Engie share the risks as well as the benefits“. During the press conference, the Prime Minister also specified that these profits generated would allow a reinvestment in other technologies.

The participation of the Belgian State and Electrabel (Belgian subsidiary of Engie) will be split in two, either 50/50, the French group said in a separate statement. The Belgian government announced on March 18 its decision to postponing its total phase-out of nuclear power by ten years which was scheduled for 2025. The Engie group, which had judged this late announcement, had been making it clear for four months to the Belgian State that it wanted a bill split to effectively support two of the seven reactors it operates until 2035.

As part of the agreement “the costs of dismantling nuclear power plants, and of managing fissile materials and radioactive waste, are borne by the operator“, indicated the Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy during the press conference. Finally, Alexander De Croo declared take inspiration from the German modelin which Engie covers the costs but where the State defines the implementation.

Following the press conference, the Belgian Business Federation (FEB) thought “satisfied“of the agreement in principle.”This is a new step in the extension of nuclear reactors which therefore gives our country and its economy greater confidence in the future security of supply.“.

Aurore Dessaigne

“A first agreement in principle has been reached between the Belgian State and Engie on the extension of the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear power plants. The Belgian government takes its responsibilities so that our country can control its energy supply”, declared this morning Alexander De Croo. An announcement that follows that made by the European Commission on Wednesday, calling on member states to reduce their gas consumption. The war in Ukraine and Putin’s desire to put pressure on those who support the invaded country are pushing Europe – and therefore Belgium – towards energy independence. The European Commission has thus called for a reduction in gas consumption in Europe by 15% between August 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023, stating: “All consumers, governments, households, owners of public buildings, electricity suppliers and industry can and should take action to save gas”. In this context, the Belgian government has therefore decided to turn to nuclear power. In May 2022, statistics published by the European agency Eurostats showed that Belgium was, in 2020, dependent on Russian oil at 46%, coal at 36% and natural gas at 8%, to arrive at a total 24% of its energy mix. Russian imports which weigh on the Belgian economy. The current instability thus reminds the government that geopolitical balances can tip very quickly. And for a country that imports a total of 78% of its energy, the risk now seems too great. And the Minister of Energy Tinne Van der Straeten hammered it during the press conference this Friday, “energy has become a matter of national security”. Words taken up by the Prime Minister. The latter confirmed that this decision had been taken in a “context of a war on the European continent” and with the aim of achieving energy independence. The Minister of Energy, for her part, underlined their objective of ensuring “the safety and tranquility of citizens and businesses […]” . Wanting to underline the solemn aspect of the moment, Alexander De Croo indicated that it was “the first time in history” that the Belgian State took its energy in hand, this “being one of the key missions of a State” for “strategic questions” and, once again, “national security questions”. Finally, since energy has a strong impact on the economy, the Prime Minister simply declared that “we [le gouvernement belge] has our say”. Alexander De Croo confirmed that all “ongoing preparations” were organized so that the reactors resume service by November 2026 (subject to the approval of the safety authorities). he idea is to extend the life of the two Belgian nuclear reactors by 10 years and to operate them in a joint venture to be created between the Belgian State and the French group Engie, according to “an agreement in principle”.The two parties are currently negotiating the conditions of this extension announced in March and hope to reach a definitive agreement by the end of the year, with the aim of subsequently submitting it to the European Commission, in charge of evaluating the plans for urgency of the Member States by the end of September.The latter must indeed show how they intend to achieve the gas reduction objective, and thus submit a progress report to the Commission every month or two months. moment, the Belgian State and Engi They agreed “on the modalities concerning the future approach, the timing and the framework of the negotiations” with a view to this definitive agreement. The reactors concerned – Doel 4 and Tihange 3 – together represent a nuclear capacity of 2 GW. They will be managed by “a new company to be created”, presented on the Belgian side as “a stable and sustainable structure in which the Belgian State and Engie share the risks as well as the benefits”. During the press conference, the Prime Minister also specified that these profits generated would allow reinvestment in other technologies. The participation of the Belgian State and Electrabel (Belgian subsidiary of Engie) will be divided into two, i.e. 50/50, the French group said in a separate statement. The Belgian government announced on March 18 its decision to postpone for ten years its total exit from nuclear power, which was scheduled for 2025. The Engie group, which considered this announcement to be late, had been making it clear for four months to the Belgian State that it wanted to share the bill to effectively support two of the seven reactors it operates until 2035. As part of the agreement “the costs of dismantling nuclear power plants, and of managing fissile materials and radioactive waste, are borne by the operator”, indicated the Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy during the conference Press. Finally, Alexander De Croo said he was inspired by the German model, in which Engie takes over the costs but where the State defines the implementation. Following the press conference, the Federation of Belgian Enterprises (FEB) said to be “satisfied” with the agreement in principle. “This is a new step in the extension of nuclear reactors which therefore gives our country and its economy greater confidence in the future security of supply”.Aurore Dessaigne

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