Since last week we got to hear a lot of news stories about our country not been able to provide electricity to its citizens next winter. Elia, our power grid operator created a list of villages that could be cut off from the power grid in case of an imminent power outage. That the government and the net operator were contemplating cutting rural villages off the grid was already known for a couple years by now. What was new is that an actual list was made. It contains a number of villages divided into six areas. According to the severity of the blackout threat the net operator can cut power in one or more of those areas. The mayors of some villages were obviously not amused. The list was not publicized, so they don’t know if their village is on the list and risk being cut off next winter.
Some background. In the past our country was powered for the biggest part by nuclear power plants. They produced about 55% of our electricity. They were planned to be closed in next years, but because our power infrastructure was old, that date was postponed several times. In the meanwhile small cracks were found in the cooling water basin of two of them and they were closed, another plant was temporary closed for maintenance and a week ago one came to an emergency stop, suspected due to sabotage.
This meant that we now only have one third of our nuclear capacity (base load) left. Now electricity consumption is still low, there seems to be no problem yet. But this could change in winter time when wind and solar sources underperform during our biggest consumption of the year and our neighbors (except France) have the same problem. This meant that our government and our grid operator Elia decided to cut some communities off the grid when an outage is eminent and other measures didn’t work.
People got angry when they heard there was a list made, but was not publicized. That is not hard to understand, if those people knew they are on that list and having a high risk of being cut off the grid, those citizens could prepare should the situation occur. Which is not possible if they are unsure about being on the list or whether Elia will cut off the whole of that village or just a part. Interesting information to get when one want to be prepared.
A Belgian newspaper asked cities and villages whether they knew they are in a risk zone and if they were taking measures already. Some did know that they live in a risky area and some of those already have emergency plans, like emergency generators. But most of the villages that responded didn’t even know if they are at risk or not. The village that I live in doesn’t know whether they are on that list, but have some emergency plans when it would happen. Next month they will get to know if they are on that list or not.
What I missed in all the reporting on this issue is that there was no mention whatsoever about the cause: the renewable energy policy of our country. Those wind/solar policies have a disruptive effect on other sources of electricity. Generous subsidies and the priority rule that make other power sources unprofitable. Which means no upgrade or building new power plants and sticking with our old, less reliable, infrastructure. We are now paying the price for this. There is of course also the missmatch of wind and solar versus consumption in winter, which will make the situation worse if it happens.
The most interesting are those articles in which it was possible to comment. Reading those comments it was clear that the public knows exactly what the issue is all about.
Here you have it. The media doesn’t know about the issue or doesn’t want to tell about it, while members of the public already figured it out. Even despite the persistent failure of the media and our politicians to report on it.
Currently there also seems to be a problem with our ability to import electricity from abroad. The high voltage transmission station that connects us with the French power grid failed last March and is still in repair, probably finished next year. It failed by a lack of lubricating oil. This seems similar to the problem of the now non-active nuclear plant Doel 4. Also a lack of lubricating oil was the cause why the plant came to an emergency stop. Some think it could be an act of malice.
Whatever the cause, it decreases our ability to receive power from France when we will need it most. If we were in a pickle by the close down of those four nuclear plants, then we are in deep shit now.
Another transmission station, this time one that is connecting our country with The Netherlands, is in maintenance, therefor also limiting the import from there.
There was a lot of cheering that a solution was found. The reactor Tihange 1 would be active from November on, so will be available in winter in stead of being in maintenance. Nice of course, but as far as I know this was not even the problem. The problem was that 3 reactors were closed in quick succession. Sure, it would help that Tihange 1 will be back in production, but this wasn’t the problem in the first place.