Renewable Energy and the Environment in Belgium
In this renewable energy guide we will cover the renewable energies available in Belgium (solar panels, biomass, wind power, and much more), the technologies and tools in place with which to reduce pollution at home, and finally, how to offset your carbon emissions with the Gandhi project.
What are the Different Types of Renewable Energy in Belgium?
Renewable energy makes it possible to produce electricity, and sometimes gas, from natural elements that are inexhaustible on a human scale. In Belgium, we have a total of 5 main types of renewable energy production methods.
Photovoltaic and Thermal-Solar Energy
Solar energy is produced by solar thermal collectors and solar photovoltaic panels. Each one uses a different method to transform energy, and each one is used for different applications.
Solar photovoltaic panels, or solar panels (panneaux solaires), are used to convert the sun’s light (photons) into electricity (voltage). Hence the name, photo-voltaic. These are the solar panels you are used to seeing on top of houses and buildings, or even in large solar panel farms used by power plants.
If your house is equipped with solar panels, you will be able to purchase green certificates and resell them to your energy supplier to offset your energy production. In addition, suppliers are required to buy back a certain quota over a year in order to prove their ecological investment.
The solar thermal collectors (capteur solaire thermique) capture the heat of the sun. In your residence, this would be used to power certain heating appliances such as a water boiler. You might have seen boilers connected to something that looks like a solar panel, but is actually a heat collector. Also, you could have district heating powered by solar thermal technology. District heating networks (réseau de chauffage urbain) are when buildings in a city area, or district, are provided heating from a central heating plant.
On an industrial level, concentrated solar thermal systems (CSTs) are used to power certain processes such as drying, washing, and pasteurizing. These are commonly used by the food and beverage industry, as well as textile and chemical producing companies.
Biomass Energy Produced from Organic Material
Biomass transforms organic waste into energy, thanks to the following processes:
- Burning: Normally of wood and agricultural plant waste (straw, peanuts, etc.)
- Gasification: A process which uses heat, and a reagent, to decompose the biomass into combustible gas mixture, syngas, which is used to create synthetic natural gas
- Anaerobic digestion: A process which uses microorganisms to transform waste into biogas
Biomass is mainly used in the field of transport and heating. The energy recovery of biomass makes it possible to increase the share of renewable energies and to participate in the energy transition.
Hydroelectric Energy from Rivers and Dams
Hydroelectric energy (l'énergie hydraulique) works by using the movement of water to turn turbines which generate electricity. That could be the tidal movement of waves in large bodies of water, or the flow of rivers.
In Belgium, it is mostly rivers and dams which produce hydroelectric power. This happens with dams building up the potential of water in rivers, and then the water cascading down over a turbine to turn it and produce electricity. There are also smaller turbines that sit on the edge of a flowing river and turn as the river runs.
Most of the hydroelectric energy is produced in Wallonia, with over 100 hydroelectric sites, compared to Flanders which has over 15 sites.
Belgium also has something called pumped storage stations, which use the power of water and turbines to store electricity for use during peak consumption time. ENGIE-Electrabel and Lampiris each have one such facility.
Wind Energy from the Air
Wind turbines generate electricity using the force of the wind. Some are located out at sea, we call them “offshore wind turbines”.
There are small wind turbines made for residential use, but in Belgium you are better off using solar panels for your home. In the case of wind turbines, you will need planning permission from your local authority, and this is not easy to get. Also, there is not a lot of wind at the elevation in which the residential wind turbines would be installed.
On the other hand, solar panels do not need any planning permission, they have lower maintenance costs, easier installation, and have been proven to generate a cost efficient amount of energy in Belgium. And as mentioned earlier, you can get green certificated for your solar energy and resell these to your supplier.
Geothermal Energy from the Earth
Geothermal energy produces energy from the heat located underground. It is tapped by digging either deep wells underground, at a depth of over 2,000 meters, or shallow wells at 150 meter or more.
In Belgium there are currently 2 main active projects for deep geothermal energy production, one by Janssen Pharmaceuticals for their own private use, and the other a joint venture by Engi-Fabricom and Vito in the Balmatt site in Mol.
There are over 150 projects for office buildings to use shallow wells for heating and cooling, such as the Nato offices in Brussels, and the AZ Maria Middelares hospital in Ghent.
The Renewable Energy Directive
The countries of the European Union have adopted national objectives called the Renewable Energy Directive to increase the share of renewable energy in energy consumption by 2020. Depending on the initial situation of the countries, the objective differs. Belgium aimed to achieve a renewable energy production of 13% of its total produced. However, Belgium is capped at 11.68% renewable energy production as of November 2020, and is therefore one of the poorer performers in the European Union. The government will have to pay over € 31 million to buy green certificates from countries who have met their goals to offset its production.
Indeed, Belgium still mainly uses gas and fuel oil for heating. Fuel oil contributes heavily to global warming by producing 10 times more greenhouse gases than wood pellets. This is why the sale of oil-fired boilers will be banned in 2035 in Belgium as part of an energy transition policy.
Source : Chiffres clés 2019 de la CREG , Production des unités connectées au réseau Elia + productions éoliennes et solaires raccordées au réseau de distribution.
How to be more Ecological at Home
If you want to make your home and the way you consume energy greener, several technologies have come are on the market to help you achieve your goals:
- The home battery stores excess electricity produced by your solar panels. It allows you to have green electricity and heating while the sun is down.
- The pellet stove, which is a heating system operated by the combustion of wood pellets, is less polluting than oil boilers, and more sustainable than natural gas boilers.
- The heat pump is another sustainable and economical heating system since it is more energy efficient than traditional heaters. It also allows heating from natural elements (air, water, earth).There are models of green heat pumps for swimming pools, considered to be the most ecological way of heating your swimming pool.
- The electric car which when recharged using electricity produced by green sources will be practically emissionless to run.
Who are the Green Electricity Suppliers in Belgium?
More and more energy suppliers in Belgium are investing in renewable energy and sometimes even become producers themselves.
|Green Energy Suppliers in Belgium|
A top 5 energy supplier in BelgiumLearn More
An independent supplier from LiègeLearn More
A Walloon cooperative that produces electricity from the windLearn More (FR)
An energy cooperative that produces electricity from hydroelectric, wind, and solar sources.Learn More (FR)
Choose from locally produced green energy.Learn More (FR)
In addition to these 100% green suppliers, others such as ENGIE and Luminus offer you green tariffs as an option.
Carbon Offsetting with CallMePower’s Project Ghandi
Global warming is causing more and more damage to our planet and our health. This is why several measures have been put in place for years to counter it, one of which is carbon offsetting.
What is Carbon Offsetting?
Almost any activity, whether heating, eating, or traveling, emits carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. CO2 is a greenhouse gas considered to be one of the biggest causes of global warming. Many companies offer their customers the option to offset their emissions by financing projects dedicated to ecology or to aid to developing countries. In this way, the consumer creates a balance between his own emissions and his ecological commitment.
What is the Gandhi Project?
At CallMePower, we set up the Gandhi project aimed at financing the creation of a wind farm in the city of Porbandar in India. Since its creation, the park has been able to create 36 GWh of green electricity per year and reduce its carbon emissions by 33,000 tonnes.
We made the strategic choice to set up this project in India and not in Belgium because India is considered to be the third most polluting country in the world. In addition, the Gandhi project has helped finance schools and create jobs for the local population.