Cutting down the tree while praising its harvest

Debate on energy security in the Belgian Parliament on 20221208

Last weekend, I came across this interesting article about a discussion about energy security in the Belgian Federal Parliament. First some background. This discussion took place last year on December 8. The Belgian grid manager (Elia) published at that time a report that there might be a small capacity shortage in the winter of 2024 and a large capacity shortage in the winter of 2025. There was already the earlier decision to extend the life of the two youngest nuclear power reactors, but those nuclear reactors would not be available in these two winters because of maintenance necessary for their life extension. The other five nuclear reactors will be decommissioned by 2025, meaning that Belgium will enter these two winters with roughly half of its production capacity.

It therefor should not come as a surprise that some members of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives directed a lot of criticism towards the energy policy of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy. For example, Bert Wollants aired his fear that the lights will go out in 2025 if we don’t keep more nuclear power reactors open. He pleaded to make a swift decision on keeping more of them open. He was not the only one who made that plea.

Then the Prime Minister had his chance to respond to the criticism. It is the first part of his response that raised my eyebrows (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

Colleagues, after all the loudmouthing, let’s look at the facts. Let me reassure you first and foremost: the light or the heating will not go out in our country. Let that be clear.

But the discussion in other countries in Europe before this winter is a different discussion. In Germany, an industrial shutdown plan is being worked on. In Switzerland there are plans to demand that electric cars should not be used in winter. In France, they have a “Plan de Délestage”. In other countries, the most polluting power stations, coal-fired power stations, are being extended in time. Some of the countries today, they don’t have a blackout today thanks to whom?

He basically said that other countries in Europe have some serious problems, contrary to Belgium (probably to show that Belgium is doing fine under his watch?).

That last sentence is intriguing. Not sure who or what is keeping some of those countries from a blackout, but these first sentences seems to be an introduction to a claim that Belgium somehow has to do with it (that would be utterly ridiculous).

Indeed, that seems to be the case:

Thanks to us.

Yep, he actually said that and he even confirmed it in his next sentence:

Thanks to our country.

Then he even doubled down:

Thanks to the fact that we have a solid energy policy in our country, those countries are not exposed to a blackout today.

Belgium has a solid energy policy?!?!?! 😆

He then ended the first part of his response with:

Those are the facts. I am willing to take some loudmothing, but those are the facts.

Okay, let’s just look at those “facts”. I am not sure where he gets the idea that Belgium somehow prevents some of its neighboring countries (plural) from having blackouts. Belgium has a relatively small grid compared to its neighboring countries (except Luxembourg). For the countries that he is naming in his response: the German grid is more than 5 times bigger than that of Belgium and the grid of France more than 6 times. The idea that Belgium’s grid is capable of keeping the grids of not one, but even multiple neighboring countries from blackouts seems pretty unlikely to me. I want to see those receipts.

Also, the claim that Belgium has a “solid energy policy” is laughable. The energy policy of the last two decades is 1) exit nuclear energy and 2) add more solar and wind. That is still the policy of the current government and this longstanding policy will not prevent us from having a potential deficit in the winter of 2024 (and 2025).
I could however accept that the current government took some first steps to add some balancing power (in the form of gas fired power plants) into the mix, but that decision will only show its effects in the future. Even if it would be possible to start building those gas fired power plants right now, these are unlikely to be finished by 2024 or 2025.

But then, if these first steps will only start producing results several years into the future, why did our Prime Minister takes credit for it now? He clearly stated that the reason why Belgium doesn’t have the same problems as its neighbors is the energy policy of his government. That doesn’t make no sense.

It didn’t make any sense for Bert Wollants either. He came forward again and explained that we currently don’t have the same problems as our neighbors because of the decision made by the previous government to extend the life of two nuclear reactors. If the previous government wouldn’t have done that, then those two reactors would have been closed by now and Belgium would have lost almost 1 GW of its capacity (on a needed capacity of about 8 to 10 GW back then in December 2022).

… auch…

Not only did the Prime Minister try to suggest that the energy policy of his government is the reason why we are not in problems at this moment, he also seems to be unaware that Belgium is currently in a (relatively) good position because it still have most of its nuclear reactors running and probably also because we are experiencing a rather soft winter. None of which has anything to do with the energy policies of the current government. More, the goal of his government is to try to shut down as much nuclear reactors as soon as possible.

He is in fact praising the harvest of the tree that he is trying to cut down…

via Trust, yet verify

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January 24, 2023 at 04:22PM

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