Belgium’s energy market: in need of a change
In the past decade, the energy consumption in Belgium has remained stable, with a general consumption of 500 TW on a yearly basis (currently 20 TW from renewable sources). The average consumption per person stabilizes at around 2 mWh per year.
However, the ever-increasing amount of Renewable Energy Sources production (RES production) will end the classic pattern of stable consumption and production. Their inherent intermittency and variability introduce strain on the grid and will lead to unseen market uncertainty.
As a countermeasure, Belgium strives to improve its energy efficiency while reducing its consumption to 250 TWH by 2035 — doing more with less. One way to improve efficiency and tackle consumption peaks is by increasing flexibility among producers and consumers on a midsize scale. By collectively coordinating energy use in communities, Belgium can optimize its energy resources and ensure a more sustainable approach to consumption.
Energy communities: what and why are they?
Fluvius and energy consumers play a significant role in Belgium's transforming energy landscape. On the one hand, Fluvius focuses on distributing and facilitating locally produced renewable energy. On the other hand, citizens can actively participate in the energy transition by, for example, setting up or joining an energy community. ECs are communities that trade locally produced energy without having commercial gain as their primary objective in order to incentivize individuals to drive changes in the energy market. These communities arose from the needs and desires of both citizens or individual consumers and the DGO’s alike and are a possible solution for reducing strain on the grid, difficult implementation of RES, and rising energy prices.
What's next: Energy communities' way forward and associated difficulties
The energy transition in Belgium involves a collaborative effort among companies, citizens, and local authorities. The primary focus is on energy sharing within local communities. This involves considering various scenarios, such as installing solar panels, incorporating battery storage, and transitioning to electric vehicles.
Innovation plays a crucial role in the development of energy communities. Projects like Lovitas and RE/Sourced have been at the forefront, promoting efficiency and the implementation of smart microgrids. Additionally, investments at the neighborhood level are prioritized, aiming to create a collective impact rather than solely focusing on individual households.
Despite the promise they hold, ECs may not always be the optimal solution to all energy market problems. There are several limitations to implementing ECs. Firstly, the collective nature of ECs implies the need for new ownership structures that promise to be hard to set up and control. Secondly, setting up new infrastructure is a time-intensive and costly affair. Thirdly, the current legal framework surrounding ECs blocks the setup of ECs that want to be off-grid, stopping many such projects in their tracks. ECs can play a central role in the energy transition and, moreover, the energy addition by playing a crucial role in the much-needed infrastructural growth of the Belgian energy grid.
Energy communities: What do you need to know?
To send you off, here are our key takeaways:
Belgium strives to improve its energy efficiency, with a reduction of consumption towards 250 tWh by 2035 as the main goal.
Increasing flexibility among producers and consumers is crucial, and collective management efficiently tackles consumption peaks.
The change in the energy market is not so much an energy transition as it is an addition. The focus should be on the growth of electrical infrastructure and production before starting the actual transition.
Energy solutions should be conceived on a community level rather than on an individual level. ECs should not be perceived as a combination of separate individuals but as one integrated and efficient entity.
The main restriction in setting up energy communities is the current legal framework, which makes it difficult to set up any off-grid initiative.