The cheapest way to make Belgium climate neutral by 2050 is a combination of some new, small modular nuclear reactor plants (SMRs) and more wind energy at sea. That seems to be the conclusion of a recent EnergyVille study under the authority of Febeliec, the Belgian federation of large industrial energy consumers.
In the summer of 2021, Febeliec asked EnergyVille, a research center of the KU Leuven, to calculate several possible scenarios to make Belgium climate neutral by 2050. Together with VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek, VITO), IMEC, the Interuniversity Microelectronics Center, and the Hasselt University, they analyzed several possible scenarios.
The research team analyzed three scenarios. The first was a basic scenario in which renewable energy, storage, and the reuse of CO2 and green molecules contribute to achieving the objective.
The second was an ‘electrification’ scenario with a greater contribution from offshore wind energy and new nuclear power plants. And the third was a ‘green molecules’ scenario with a larger contribution of green molecules.
Leave all options open
The assignment included looking at the entire energy system concerning technology neutrality and to look for the best scenarios for achieving the Belgian climate ambitions for 2050 at the lowest possible cost and with respect to the security of supply.
The study has shown that all scenarios will require substantial investments and high operational costs. However, no technology should be excluded to keep energy affordable for our country in the longer term.
Offshore wind and nuclear power
According to the calculations, the cheapest scenario is far-reaching electrification combined with much electricity from wind farms in the North Sea and smaller nuclear power stations.
Other scenarios focusing on hydrogen or a combination of renewable energy and storing and reusing CO2 would require much more investment to achieve a comparable result. The combination of offshore wind and nuclear energy is far more economical.
Most economical solution
For Febeliec, it is obvious that Belgian authorities have to opt for small-scale nuclear power projects. And the federation indeed hopes that the government will use these conclusions when deciding on future energy solutions and opt for the most economical solution.
However, the investments are huge – 11,7 billion euros between now and 2050, the equivalent of 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – even for the cheapest scenario (a lot of offshore wind energy combined with small nuclear power plants). Other scenarios would even amount to 4% of the GDP.