As a consequence of the bulk loss risk, electricity trading with neighboring countries should and will be intensified in the future – that includes trading with Germany. With the construction of the ALEGrO cable (Aachen Liège Electricity Grid Overlay), a German-Belgian high-voltage line connecting the German province Northrhine Westphalia with Liège, will be completed in 2020. Previously, there was no direct connection from Germany to Belgium and the electricity had to be routed via the Netherlands, with associated transmission losses. This is an important step towards intensifying European electricity trading and conclusively the electricity grid.
There is also an emergency plan that regulates when, in which municipalities, and for how long the electricity is switched off in an emergency. For this purpose, Belgium has been divided into six tranches, each of which is to be disconnected from the grid for two to three hours to relieve the strain on the grid. Rail traffic and, in Wallonia, even motorway lighting would be affected. These measures are the last resort against a blackout.
Greater promotion of renewables and the expansion of capacities - gas-fired power plants are under discussion - are necessary to achieve the nuclear phase-out by 2025. Albert Moser, Professor of Energy Economics at the RWTH Aachen University, makes it clear that only if Belgium starts to create new capacities very quickly, the phase-out of nuclear plants is actually possible by 2025.
In addition, some voices in the debate hinted at the possibility that it was no coincidence that six of the seven nuclear power plant units were in repair simultaneously. Electrabel, which was to carry out the repairs to the power plant units, was highly criticized for planning errors and the delay in the repairs.
Guido Camps, former head of the energy regulator in Belgium, stresses that Electrabel, a subsidiary of the French Engie group, wanted to put pressure on the negotiations on the nuclear phase-out in Belgium by shutting down the plants at the same time. According to Cramps, the aim is to achieve longer operating times for the nuclear power plants in Belgium that have already been written off and are therefore particularly lucrative.
A further facet of the concentration risk of large conventional power plants becomes obvious: Those who rely on a few power plants operated by only a few companies become dependent on precisely these technologies and companies and can thus become the pawn in the power struggle surrounding the energy transition.
The task of eliminating bulk loss risk is difficult because, as the example of Belgium shows, these bulks prevent their elimination themselves. By making energy supply dependent on a small number of actors, these actors have the power to torpedo a much-needed transformation of the energy system towards a higher share of renewable energy. However, this is necessary not only for reasons of security of supply, but also and especially for a successful energy transition.
However, there are possibilities to adapt the market design in Belgium, which should be implemented and put into focus before discussing a capacity market. These could, if implemented consistently, make introducing the expensive capacity market unnecessary. A study commissioned by the BMWi, which in its analysis of the European electricity market considers a strategic reserve rather than a capacity market to be sufficient for security of supply in Belgium, comes to a similar conclusion.
These are only two proposals that would exploit existing potentials and optimize the Belgian electricity market. Further proposals for an improved market design in Belgium after the nuclear phase-out are listed here.
Some steps in the right direction have already been taken, other low-hanging fruit offer further potential to prepare the market in Belgium for the nuclear phase-out and thus spread the existing bulk risk loss. These should be implemented first before introducing a capacity market is even discussed.
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