‘Grey Day’: Belgium can survive 35 days on green energy

Summary

Today is Grey Day, the annual day that Belgium has symbolically used up its green energy for the year and must rely on nuclear power or fossil fuels

Plans to double solar power

Today is Grey Day in Belgium, the symbolic day that we can no longer provide green energy to power the country. In other words, if the country ran 100% on sustainably produced energy, it would have been used up by yesterday.

Canvas, a channel belonging to public broadcaster VRT, founded Grey Day two years ago to illustrate how close Belgium is to reaching sustainable energy goals. Last year, Grey Day fell on 4 February, and the year before on 2 February.

While improving, the results – based on the latest figures available, from 2018 – put Belgium at number 24 in the (then) 28 states of the European Union. Sweden is at number one, with Grey Day reached in the middle of July.

The figures are not entirely based on green sources, like solar and wind power. It also includes energy-efficient buildings and homes as well as green mobility. The rate of Belgium’s sustainable energy is currently 9.4%.

“In order to have stayed on course for the 2020 goal of 13%, we needed Grey Day to happen five or six days later, rather than one day later,” explained the public broadcaster. “At this rate, we will not reach our 2020 goal until 2030, and it will take 300 years to reach 100% energy-efficiency. A rate the EU is asking for by 2050.”

There is little space here. We have no mountains, so we cannot use hydropower, and there’s not much sun or wind

- Koen Van den Heuvel

According to Annemie Bollen of Flanders’ socio-economic advice council, Flanders is largely responsible for the country not reaching the goal. “The responsibility to reach the 13% goal was split up among the regions,” she told VRT. “Flanders has not reached their goal in energy-efficiency. Wallonia has been able to reach it, and surpassed it. But it has not surpassed it enough to make up for Flanders’ deficiency.”

But that’s an unfair assessment of the situation, politician Koen Van den Heuvel (CD&V) told Radio 1. “When it comes to nature, Flanders has few assets,” said Van den Heuvel, who sits in the Flemish government’s Energy and Environment committee. “There is also little space here. We have no mountains, so we cannot use hydropower, and there’s not much sun or wind. What’s more, we have offshore wind farms, but they don’t count in our figures because they are included in the federal figures.”

That doesn’t stop the region from being ambitious, he said. “We are looking to double solar-produced energy as well as land-based wind power. And we must continue to invest in innovative projects, like the hydrogen plant planned for Ostend. Europe’s ambitious ‘Green Deal’ will help a great deal to realise such projects.”

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