IEA commends Belgium for improved energy security and encourages it to continue expanding public oil stocks

(Paris) — 9 March 2011

The International Energy Agency (IEA) releases today its publication Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Belgium 2009 Review, which highlights Belgian initiatives to address the three pillars of energy policy – energy security, economic growth and environmental protection. The report commends the many steps that have been taken to improve security of energy supply, which include building electricity and gas interconnectors, developing a gas hub, diversifying supply sources and enhancing regional integration. The study praises Belgium’s strong emphasis on energy security and urges the country to intensify ongoing efforts to develop and implement an integrated emergency response policy for different energy sources. The IEA also encourages Belgium to continue its actions to expand its public emergency oil stockholding in order to ensure it meets its minimum stockholding obligations.

Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Belgium 2009 Review also discusses how Belgium addresses climate change. A considerable number of measures to stimulate energy efficiency and renewable energy already exist in Belgium. While this is very positive, overall effectiveness and cost-efficiency of the existing measures can be improved through better co-ordination. Improving energy efficiency in buildings is rightly one of the key priorities, as buildings account for the bulk of Belgium’s energy consumption. Reducing energy use in the transport sector is the most challenging task, as in all OECD countries, and requires an even stronger political will.

Nuclear energy currently provides more than half of Belgium’s electricity and more than a fifth of total primary energy supply. However, a law adopted in 2003 prohibits the construction of new nuclear plants and limits the operational life of the existing plants to 40 years. Although the first stage of the phase-out has been postponed by 10 years, the law still has the potential to present significant long-term challenges for the country. These potential challenges include huge investments needed to replace the nuclear generation capacity and build related infrastructure; greater reliance on imports of fossil fuels; and an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Belgium is therefore encouraged to reconsider its nuclear phase-out policy, as part of a comprehensive long-term energy and climate strategy, taking into account security of supply, economic efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Note to journalists: The launch of this study, initially planned for early 2010, was postponed. As a joint press launch has not proven possible to schedule, the IEA in consultation with Belgian officials decided to release the review today to share its findings with policy makers, energy sector experts and general public. The study is based on analysis that took place in 2009; however, nearly all of the findings and recommendations are still valid.