Max Green is in fact Min Green

The potential shortage of electricity on peak moments in winter keeps the media busy. Two messages caught my attention. The first one is the subject of this post.

It is the message of a biomass plant that was closed, but could be restarted in the next month (Dutch). The plant is called Max Green and is the biggest biomass plant in Belgium. It was said it could deliver “green” power for 320,000 families by burning wood pellets. It was said it is a stroke of luck for our energy security in winter.

When looking a bit deeper a different picture comes clear. The plant was converted into a biomass plant in 2011 and was closed in 2013. The reason is recognizable for those who follow the green energy production story. Because it was a renewable energy plant they got subsidies. 8 million euro per month, meaning 96 million per year. That is a bit less than 1/10 of all subsidies in Flanders for biomass, solar and inland wind together.

In principle they weren’t entitled for subsidies, because subsidies are only given for biomass plants that burn waste materials like bark, pruned branches, twigs, root woods and so on. Initially they got permission to burn wood pellets, but the wood processing industry objected the decision because it was unfair competition.

The market disturbed by subsidizing of economically inviable “green” energy. Where did we hear that before?

The subsidies were retracted and Electrabel, the owner, closed it. Without subsidies the plant will run at a loss.

Also no surprises here.

Now a solution was found. Max Green will get subsidies again, but they had to guarantee that they would only use wood from abroad.

Importing wood from abroad. Do they still call that green energy?

In the end, how much energy does that largest biomass plant of Belgium produces that we should call us lucky for it restarting, mostly unreported, wait for it … 180 MW. We need additionally more than 2,000 MW on peak moments and if it is true that our import from abroad is compromised, we are looking at much more than that. 180 MW will hardly make a dent, a very expensive one that is. Why is the media cheering an economically not viable solution with a minimal result that disrupt the market of those that do make sense?

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