Belgium goes under fire due to rising gas prices in Europe

Although EU officials have argued in Brussels this month about the relative viability of nuclear power and gas, residents of a small town 60 kilometers east of the Belgian capital were even more concerned: If Belgium were to get rid of nuclear power, where would it get its gas?

“Everyone around us is turning off the gas. Where are we going to get us from? Petni? What would we do if he turned off the tap? This month, Heidi Hessweights spoke out against a planned gas-fired power plant in his hometown of Tsenderlo.

The sandwich between nuclear France and pro-gas Germany Belgium highlights one of the problems the EU faces in its energy supply as it moves towards a carbon-neutral future.

The change is increasing Europe’s dependence on gas as it moves away from dirty coal. But at a time when European gas prices are rising, the Belgian government is also set to begin a long-delayed full withdrawal from nuclear power যা which produces zero-carbon but harmful wastes. It plans to build more gas-powered plants to provide energy that cannot be covered by wind parks and solar panels.

The move drew criticism from the regional government of Flanders, Belgium’s northern and more industrialized region, and an unusual alliance of pro-nuclear and pro-climate activists.

“Our gas prices are already rising and on top of that, taxpayers will have to pay for more gas plants – it’s not at all pointless,” Hessevitz said.

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Belgium’s seven nuclear reactors, which generate half of the country’s electricity, will go offline by 2025 under a promise included in the national government’s coalition agreement. The government has approved multi-billion-euro subsidy projects for the construction and operation of gas-fired power plants, which will fill the energy vacuum.

This puts the country in stark contrast to neighboring France, which is set to increase its use of carbon-free nuclear energy, and the Netherlands, which is moving away from gas-powered plants. The Dutch government is also shutting down Europe’s largest natural gas field, which used to supply about half of Belgium’s gas imports.

“Belgium is dependent on fossil fuels and is facing energy security challenges,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in its report.

Flanders ’pro-business regional government has come out against Belgium’s nuclear shutdown and is questioning the timing of betting on more gas.

“If you see rising carbon prices and rising gas prices, if you build more gas plants, you will only be more dependent on gas and the cost will ultimately go to the consumer,” said Flemish Energy Minister Juhal Demir. .

He has stopped building a gas-powered plant and the residents of Tsenderlo expect him to reach the same conclusion in their case. Demir said each construction permit was issued or denied on a case-by-case basis.

Climate activist IK Tulling, from the action group Tegangas / Dagez (against gas), said any approval of the Tesendarlo plant would be challenged in court. The group is already preparing a legal challenge against a construction permit granted in the French-speaking region of Wallonia, where the regional government favors gas.

Belgium’s pro-nuclear activists agree with many climate-friendly arguments about the country’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

“Nuclear power must be part of the transformation to decarbonize the entire economy,” said Arnaud Pocket, co-founder of the pro-nuclear group Horizon 238.

At the federal level, Energy Minister Tinnie van der Stratten has blown up the idea that the recent gas price increase will have a lot of impact, due to the fact that subsidized gas-fired plants will not go online until 2025.

He has left the door open to keep the two reactors online when Belgium’s overall energy security is at stake. But he said the ultimate goal should be to renew dependence on external factors for the country’s energy needs.

“Belgium is a net energy importer anyway. My first crisis meeting as a minister was on the import of nuclear fossil fuels. We have no gas, no oil, no uranium, ”said Van der Straten. “The only way forward is 100% renewable energy.”

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