Belgium and coal

From Global Energy Monitor

The International Energy Agency (IEA) notes in its 2005 review of energy policy in Belgium that coal provides approximately 11% of the electricity generated and that, while the country has domestic coal resources, the last coal mine closed in 1993 due to high costs of production.

The IEA notes that in terms of energy supply "apart from the introduction and growth of nuclear, the most significant trend has been a reduction in the use of coal". It also notes that "over the last 30 years, coal consumption has dropped by nearly 70%, from 5.7 to 1.8 Mtoe".[1] (Mtoe is the acronym for 'million tonnes of oil equivalent', a measure that seeks to standardise the energy content of different fuels based on the amount of energy released by burning one tonne of crude oil).

Coal in the Energy Generation Sector

In the decade from 1994 to 2004, there was a dramatic growth in gas-fired power generation over coal-fired generation. The IEA notes that "electricity generated from coal has fallen by nearly 50%" over the decade and dropped from providing 27% of total generation in 1994 to just over 12% in 2004.[1] In 2005, there were 7 operating coal-fired power stations: Amercoeur (127 MW), Les Awirs (126 MW), Langerlo (470 MW), Mol (255 MW, of which 124 MW in conservation), Monceau (92 MW), Rodenhuize (268 MW) and Ruien (444 MW), all of which were operated by Electrabel.[2]

In 2005, the Les Awirs power plant was converted to run on 100 percent biomass, still being able to run on coal as well. The coal-fired power stations of Monceau, Amercoeur and Mol were closed in 2007, 2009 and 2010, respectively.[2]

In 2010, Rodenhuize was being converted to run on 100% biomass, leaving Ruien and Langerlo the only remaining coal-fired power stations in Belgium.[2]

In 2013 E.ON received an environmental permit to convert the 460 MW Langerlo coal-fired power station to a 400 MW biomass power station by 2016.[3]

Nuclear Phase-Out

While coal currently plays a relatively minor role in energy supply, there could be an increase in coal consumption in the medium to longer term. In 2003, Belgium passed legislation requiring the phase-out of nuclear power stations when they turn 40 years old. As a result, the existing nuclear power stations, which generate approximately 55% of the country's electricity, will be phased out between 2015 and 2025. Whether the role of coal in the generation sector expands or not depends on the degree to which the replacement of nuclear capacity is met by energy efficiency, power imports and an expanded role for gas.

The IEA also notes that while national CO2 emissions have grown by 11% since 1990, "emissions from coal dropped by more than 40 percent due to fuel switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation, as well as to restructuring in the iron and steel industry... Emissions from coal now account for a fifth of CO2 emissions."[1]

Proposed Coal-Fired Power Stations

  • Antwerp Power Station, Flanders: In November 2007 E.ON Kraftwerke announced plans to build a 1,100 megawatt power station at a cost of 1.5 billion euros. In its announcement, E.ON stated that it had "started the permitting process by submitting the “MER-Kennisgeving”. In order to be able to start commercial operation in 2014, E.ON Kraftwerke hoped to receive all necessary permits in the second half of 2009."[4] aiming to begin construction in 2010.[5]One report on the proposed project stated that "Antwerp was chosen because the installations on the right bank of the River Scheldt can be supplied with coal ships of up to 130.000 tonnes. The new power plant will run on 2 million tonnes of coal per year. This means that coals will be shipped in twice a month."[6] In september 2010, the Flemish province of Antwerp declined to grant an environmental permit for the construction of the plant.[7][8] In november 2010, E.on made appeal against this decision.[9] This appeal was rejected by the Flemish Minister for Environment Joke Schauvliege in December 2011.[10] Though, theoretically, E.on could have opted for a futher appeal at the Belgian Council of State, the German power company decided to stop any further procedures, effectively cancelling the proposed Antwerp power station.[11]

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 International Energy Agency, Energy Policies of IEA Countries: Belgium: 2005 Review, International Energy Agency, 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Electrabel, Activities and Sustainable Development Report 2009, accessed November 2010.
  3. "Power in Europe," Platts report, Issue 675, April 28, 2014 (subscription only).
  4. E.ON Kraftwerke, "E.ON plans hard coal fired power station in Antwerp harbour area", Media Release, November 29, 2007,
  5. E.ON Kraftwerke, "The new hard-coal power plant in Antwerpen", E.ON Kraftwerke website, accessed July 2008.
  6. "E.ON to build 1.1 gigawatt coal plant in Antwerp", Flanders Investment and Trade, November 29, 2007.(The original report was in the Gazet van Antwerpen newspaper).
  7. "Antwerp rejects permit to German E.on coal plant."
  8. "E.ON shocked as Antwerp coal plant blocked"
  9. "E.ON in beroep tegen afwijzing Antwerpse kolencentrale"
  10. "Geen milieuvergunning voor E.on steenkoolcentrale in Antwerpse haven
  11. "E.on stopt procedure steenkoolcentrale na weigering milieuvergunning"

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