Ladies and gentlemen,
We’re in 2030. You stand in front of the open window in your office, looking down on the city. Clear skies, no smog. The smell of fresh air tells you that spring is comingas electriccars, busses and hydrogen trucks drive quietly through the streets.
And you realize: the energy transition has changed our lives. We barely noticed it while it was happening.
But now you know that it is about so much more than an imperative to fight climate change.
It is about comfort.
It is about health.
It is about the quality of life.
The energy transitionhas made our lives better.
Ladies and gentlemen,
2030 is now. If we want this image to become reality, we to act now. We need to work together as never before. We need to invest today in the energy infrastructure of tomorrow.
Remember what happened in 1945, at the end of the second World War. People had hope and believed in a better future. In Belgium, this was the moment we built infrastructure such as harbors, airports, highways, electricity and gas networks.
This public spending is the bedrock on which we have built a prosperous society and we continue to reap the benefits of it.
To quote Seneca. “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
The most important thing that I, as a policy maker, can offer, is clarity. Clarity on where we’re heading.
Our goal is clear: 100% renewable energy and climate neutrality. And every step on the path should go in that direction.
There are a lot of exciting projects, I know many of you have such projects lined up, so that is why I try to make my policy as boring and predictable as possible.
I want to share three takeaways.
The first one is about Belgium.
Belgium's strategic advantage is not the presence of raw materials. We don't have mountains for hydropower, or oil or gas fields in our subsurface. But we have something else: we are a land of pioneers. We have expertise, and passion. We are not afraid to use it and we are not afraid to innovate.
We are the 4th country worldwide in offshore wind. Our Belgian builders are internationally renowned.In the next decade we are going to prove again that as a small country, we can achieve great things.
Offshore wind is at the heart of the green deal. It will be a major part of the electricity supply in 2030 and 2050 to achieve carbon neutrality.
We will double our capacity offshore and look for opportunities abroad,
We will create an multifunctional energy hub
We have a new neighboring country: Denmark. And we are exploring the possibility to build a hybrid interconnection.
In short - the North Sea has the potential to become one big renewable energy plant.
The energy transition is not based on green electrons only. Green molecules will be part of the deal too. Hydrogen will play a crucial role in decarbonizing energy intensive sectors. We have in Belgium a strong industrial base, with the second largest petro-chemical cluster worldwide. These industries are crucial partners for the transition. Therefore it is crucial that we support them in the transition to a carbon neutral economy. Renewable hydrogen as an industrial feedstock is one of the solutions. Without it, there is no chance that we can cut the emissions to zero.
So if we want renewable hydrogen to make a real contribution in 2030, we have to start now.
Belgium is located in the heart of Europe, at an energy crossroads. My aim is to create a hydrogen backbone in the heart our industrial clusters and those of our neighboring countries. This backbone will be the foundation for international connections.
The second take away is probably the most frequent word during these energy encounters: flexibility.
Unfortunately, our energy infrastructure does not always allow us to fully benefit of advantageous weather conditions.Wind turbines had to be shut down due to the oversupply of electricity on the net. It can occur that we have to switch of wind turbines every 4 weeks due to much production and insufficient flexibility. Shutting down wind turbines when the wind is blowing is the world upside down. What is now the exception, threatens to become the rule.
So the need for flexibility and controllable power plants is growing every day.
In the next decade we will install more renewable capacity than ever before.The more wind farms onshore and offshore and the more pv’s we have. The more energy we will produce, and the more frequent this scenario is likely to repeat itself. So what we need is flexibility to prevent this situation from happening again. In winter as well as in summer.
We are entering a decisive phase for the Capacity Remuneration Mechanism or CRM. In doing so, we safeguard our energy supply and we are building a robust and flexible network.
The third take away is about cooperation. About the fact that alone we go fast, but together we go further.
And cooperation is necessary at every level. Security of supply and affordability are a shared responsibility of every government.
Our beautiful country may be complex, but can’t be an excuse for a stand still. We need to step up the game and achieve our own imposed goals. So it’s a combined effort:the more renewable capacity we install the next years and the more buildings are renovated, the more CO2 we capture, the faster we achieve our common goal and reduce emissions.
Also further and reinforced cooperation between grid operators will be necessary.
Ladies and gentleman.
Each one of you, including myself,have a shared responsibility in the energy transition:
putting people first.
Public infrastructure, from charging stations, power or pipelines,new renewable capacity, is not a mere technical matter for engineers. It has a very important social component. It will always be a delicate balancing act to find the most appropriate solution – a solution that allows us to move forward, while minimizing the social impact. So it is crucial to acknowledge those concerns.
We are building an energy policy for the many, not the few. Public support is crucial for a successful energy transition.And the good news is: we have the answers. We can achieve this by creating energy communities, smart digital and easy to use solutions, let more people participate inwind or sun projects even if you don’t have the means to finance an entire investment.
Every day our plans becomes reality and in doing so we are creating thousands of local jobsthrough the development, construction, maintenanceor refurbishment.So let’s not lose track of why we are putting all our time and efforts into creating the regulatory framework and physical infrastructure, create new ideas to optimize the development and use of renewable energy sources.
As I said at the start: The energy transition is about comfort. It is about health. It is about the quality of life. The energy transition, with its integration of different technologies, will make our lives better. And the lives of our children’s children.
You can count on me, and I hope I can count on you - on your passion, expertise and eagerness tomake it possible.
I thank you for your attention.