Belgium will rely on green hydrogen to even out its energy balance

29 June, 2021

  • Massive hydrogen imports are thought to be key to meeting climate goals
  • European funds will be used to build “the energy island”

Europe consumes far more energy than it produces, a situation that is unlikely to change for the time being, and Belgium is no exception to this rule. It is a small country, with an economy that is partly driven by industrial groups that demand a lot of energy.

The Belgian energy balance is also influenced by the plan to phase out its nuclear power plants, which house the eight reactors that once accounted for almost half of the country’s energy output.

The country must therefore double down on its efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and adopt a clear and viable strategy to produce, import, and promote the efficient use of renewable energy.

For this reason, the government is drawing up an ecological transition policy that is expected to be announced by the end of the year, and in which hydrogen is expected to play an important role.

The support of the European Union will also be important, as Belgium will allocate a large part of the recovery funds to the construction of an energy island 40 kilometres offshore.

It will be a multifunctional island, generating 2.1 gigawatts of electricity in wind energy alone, which is the equivalent of two-thirds of Belgium’s entire nuclear output. The authorities have always had the project in their sights, but had dismissed it because of the high cost and technical complexity.

Belgium will allocate a large part of the recovery funds to the construction of an energy island 40 kilometres offshore

Now, thanks to the European funds, the project is gathering momentum and the government plans to allocate 420 of the 5,900 million euros earmarked for it.

In addition to wind power generation and green hydrogen production, the government plans to use the island for other purposes, such as housing computer servers for data centres and connecting floating photovoltaic panels, among others.

Importing hydrogen is key

But Belgium, as a country, is limited in its ability to generate renewable energy due to its clear solar and hydraulic constraints. To overcome these limitations, the Hydrogen Import Coalition has been set up, formed by DEME, ENGIE, Exmar, Fluxys, Port of Antwerp, Port of Zeebrugge and WaterstofNet, on top of Belgium’s various other projects to produce green hydrogen.

This coalition has just released a study that demonstrates the necessity of hydrogen imports in order to establish Belgium’s future renewable energy economy.

In order to achieve the climate objective to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050, it is essential to create infrastructure projects that allow for the importation of hydrogen.

Hydrogen could be imported via gas pipelines, various hydrogen-powered vehicles, or via the port of Antwerp.

Hydrogen import will be necessary in order to establish Belgium’s future renewable energy economy

In fact, the port of Antwerp has already undertaken plans for ‘massive’ imports of green hydrogen. This is one of the busiest ports in Europe. It is also home to several large chemicals companies, which could become the first potential users of this renewable hydrogen.