Two years ago, I took the Copenhagen School theory of security and built up a theoretical framework to examine energy security. According to my theory, energy security depends on economic and environmental policies and issues. One of the case-studies I examined was Belgium but, as time has passed, I have decided to re-visit the issue in light of new information.
Here are the facts: in 2007, Belgium imported 77.2% of its energy products; in 2009, nuclear power contributed to 51.7% of electricity generation; CO2 emissions were at 26.8 Mt. These facts were put together by the national `Commission Energy 2030`, which concluded that a decommissioning of all nuclear power plants (NPPs) would increase electricity prices, lead Belgium to become indebted through an necessity to purchase ‘carbon credits’, and would increase the import dependency of the country. These three economic arguments were supplemented by the environmental aspect of an increase in usage of oil and gas for electricity-generation leading to an increase in CO2 emissions.
In November 2011, the Belgian government has announced that a preliminary agreement has been reached to shut down all nuclear power activity by 2025. This will follow a law passed in 2003, according to which all NPPs have to be deactivated after a lifetime of 40 years and no new operating licenses for NPPs may be granted. Nevertheless, there is an exception included in the law, which states that it can be disregarded to guarantee the supply of electricity for a limited amount of time.
However, EurActiv reports that officials have stated their awareness that if major shortages will occur, the reactors will continue to operate. At the same time, the announcement of decommissioning is supposed to be an incentive for the development of renewable energy in the country. By including an escape clause, the incentive has definitely been weakened.
It seems that the Belgian government is spinning in circles. In 2003, they announced the decommissioning of nuclear power in the country. In 2008, the law was revised and and in 2009 they announced that atomic energy will have a longer life-span than previously agreed. Now, in 2011, they have returned to the initial position. It is expected that a decision will be made after a commission of experts confirms the potential to implement the law (potential to develop renewable energy to a sufficient extent), which would most probably mirror the conclusions of the Commission Energy 2030. And the cycle of debates will be re-initiated.
Economic experts will have a field day to determine the possibility of implementing the law. Environmental activists should be happy that the issue is at least being debated upon and has not been shelved.
a decommissioning of the NPPs as scheduled would increase electricity prices, wouldlead Belgium to become indebted through obligation to purchase ‘carbon credits’, and would