Belgium greenlights high-voltage operator Elia’s investment plan

Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen) has given the green light to the federal development plan of high-voltage grid operator Elia. With that plan, Elia sets out its Belgian course for the next ten years to simultaneously strengthen its energy supply and keep it affordable.

The federal development plan includes the realization of the offshore energy island, the electrification of society to reduce CO2 emissions, and the strengthening of the existing power grid. In other words, the plan is also essential for realizing Belgium’s energy transition.

‘Doing nothing is more expensive’

Concrete projects for the next ten years will be fleshed out later, but federal energy watchdog CREG earlier warned about the price tag that could be attached.

However, according to Van der Straeten, certain investments are “necessary to accelerate electrification and reduce CO2,” and “the cost of doing nothing is many times more expensive”. Moreover, investments translate into additional jobs, security of supply, and more cheap renewable energy, she says.

Princess Elisabeth Island

At the end of 2024, for example, construction will start on Princess Elisabeth Island, the energy island in the North Sea, to unlock offshore wind. The project’s total cost, which should be completed by 31 August 2026, is 450 million euros. Almost 100 million will be paid for by a European grant. The remaining 350 million euros will come from Elia’s investment budget.

The artificial island, the first of its kind, will be located some 45 km off the Belgian coast. Above the waterline, the basic structure is five hectares, about seven large football pitches, in other words.

It will almost exclusively house transmission infrastructure to help divert wind energy from the second offshore wind zone, which has a maximum capacity of 3,5 gigawatts. In time, the island, jointly built by DEME and De Nul, should also be a hub for new interconnectors with Britain and Denmark.


Other major investment projects for Elia in the next few years are constructing the Ventilus and Boucle du Hainaut high-voltage lines in West Flanders and Hainaut. However, the last word on the first hotly contested project has not yet been said.

The Flemish government has laid down a preferred route for the Ventilus high-voltage line between Zeebrugge and Avelgem. The line, which is supposed to transmit the growing electricity generation from wind farms in the North Sea to inland areas, will essentially go above ground and some ten km underground.

The route is now under public investigation, but West-Flanders Mayors, and the inhabitants of the concerned cities, for example, continue to argue for a fully underground variant of Ventilus because they fear a possible negative impact of magnetic radiation on health. Furthermore, Elia is also set to strengthen its exchange capacity with France and the Netherlands.

Higher costs for households and businesses?

Elia expects Belgian electricity consumption to increase by half by 2032, due to the increased capacity of, for example, wind turbines, solar panels, the breakthrough of the electric car, and the need to install more charging stations.

Of course, all these investments come at a cost. According to the business newspaper De Tijd, Elia is planning investments of 6,5 billion euros for 2024-2027 alone.

Elia wants to recover some of the costs by passing them on in the grid tariffs on the electricity bills of households and companies. Hence the warning from energy watchdog CREG.

According to the energy regulator, the bill for an average family, for example, would rise by around 35 euros by 2034. So Belgian industries are also holding their breath.

Update every two instead of four years

The minister also advocates making the follow-up of the federal development plan more dynamic. For example, the plan is drawn up every four years, which takes two years, so the current plans and budgets are based on the situation two years ago.

“But circumstances are changing rapidly, and the energy transition, partly driven by this government, has gained real momentum,” she says. In the future, Van der Straeten wants an update every two years to check the proposed projects against the latest circumstances.


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