Despite expanding its renewables capacity, Belgium still needs to reduce its use of fossil fuels, cut CO2 emissions and lower its reliance on energy imports, according to a new policy review by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Since the IEA’s last in-depth review of Belgium’s energy policies in 2016, the country has become a major player in offshore wind.
In 2021, Belgium had the sixth highest offshore wind capacity in the world, a major accomplishment given the country’s small and busy territorial waters, IEA said.
This output will continue to grow following recently announced steps to further accelerate and expand offshore wind deployment.
Belgium is also working with other North Sea countries to develop a combined offshore electricity grid.
However, Belgium’s greenhouse emissions have declined only marginally in recent years, IEA said.
Though the government’s Long-term Strategy for Energy and Climate aims to put the country on a path aligned with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement and the European Union, it does not include a clear target for national climate neutrality by 2050.
The IEA report recommends that Belgium should update its long-term strategy to include a clear commitment and path to 2050 climate neutrality.
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol (pictured) said: “Belgium has shown leadership on clean energy transitions – not only through its impressive deployment of offshore wind power but also by punching well above its weight in international cooperation efforts.
“In the years ahead, an unwavering focus will be needed to drive a sharper decline in emissions, notably by shifting the country’s energy system towards a broad portfolio of clean, secure and affordable sources of energy.”
Belgium has so far made limited progress on reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, with government estimates suggesting demand may increase through 2030 at least.
In 2020, oil accounted for 46% of total energy demand, followed by natural gas (27%), and a small share (3%) from coal.
While renewables’ share has doubled in the past decade, they still only accounted for 13% of total energy demand in 2020.
Besides wind, that growth was also driven by increased use of bioenergy for industry, heating and transport.
Electrification is a key aspect of any energy transition, and it is being held back in Belgium by tariff structures that significantly increase the cost of electricity.
In some regions, heating homes with electricity is 50% more expensive than with natural gas or fuel oil, even though electric heating is more efficient and less polluting.
There is also a need for increased market competition to reduce prices, which requires more efforts to remove barriers so that new companies and innovative services can enter the market, IEA said.