The subject of this post is a statement made in a current affairs program on Flemish television back in February. In that program there was a debate on smart meters and one of the arguments against was that a savings of only 1% was expected which would not be in proportion to the costs. It resulted in this remarkable statement from politician Willem-Frederik Schiltz (a Belgian politician):
1% savings of energy, if all households do that (we are not even talking about the industry), then you can close one nuclear power plant. That is how much that 1% is.
Apparently, his reasoning was that a 1% savings as a result of that smart meter is already a huge achievement since it would be enough to close one nuclear power plant. Even with some basic knowledge of our energy infrastructure, it should be clear that this is an absurd claim. It didn’t take long before it was debunked, even on national television (which shows that it is an absurd claim indeed).
However, it kept bugging me. How could someone come to this absurd conclusion? I wanted to understand the reasoning that one has to follow to come to such a conclusion. It would be interesting to know where that statement came from, especially because the guy who made the claim is apparently viewed as an “energy expert” of his political party…
It was with quite some surprise that I read this tweet written by Joeri Thijs (spokesman of Greenpeace Belgium) (translated from Dutch):
India and China are gradually becoming the new climate leaders. Europe urgently needs to step it up a notch.
I was surprised reading such a statement, especially related to China which has by far the highest emissions. Also, their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) basically said (from memory) that it would peak emissions only by 2030 and afterwards work on energy intensity (which doesn’t necessarily mean a decrease in emissions). So how could he consider both countries to be climate leaders in that regard? Especially compared to the EU, which is actually doing something in order to cut emissions.
On the one hand, the comparison seemed ridiculous, but on the other hand, I think I could somehow understand what he means. As seen in some previous posts (like this one), almost half of new solar PV in 2016 was built in China and India was also in the top 5. So if one only focuses on this specific aspect, then it is very tempting to claim that China and India are world leaders in this area.
That is of course only one side of the story and the other side doesn’t look very favorable.
Almost two years ago, I wrote a series of posts on the “We Close Doel” campaign of the Flemish Greens. To recap, they ran this campaign to “break the monopoly” of energy provider Electrabel (the owner of the nuclear plants in Doel). They wanted to close the two smallest reactors (Doel 1 and 2) and because the government wasn’t keen on taking that decision (it was decided that these reactors will be kept open longer), the Greens claimed that they would close those reactors since the Government failed to do it. Hence this campaign.
They claimed that people could make the difference by switching from “gray to green”, meaning switching (from Electrabel, the provider that manages our nuclear power plants) to a green energy provider. Participants who signed the petition declared that they would do the switch and also had to provide how much electricity they consumed per year. A counter on the campaign pages then kept tally of the yearly energy consumption of those who declared that they would go from gray to green. The more kWh on the counter, the bigger the “signal” to Electrabel and to the Government.
What caught my attention during this visit was that no starting date was shown on the campaign pages. This means that visitors didn’t know whether this campaign had just started or it even could well be that it is at its end. There is no way to know. When I was blogging about this campaign two years ago, this didn’t matter since I knew when it started. Now after those years, it seems odd that this campaign page was still there, as if it was still running. The two forms still seem to be active and nowhere was said that this was a campaign of the beginning of 2016 and therefor might not be relevant anymore today.
More importantly, there was also no mention of the result of this campaign. It has been almost two years ago, so the impact should be rather clear by now. Did the campaign eventually succeed in what it wanted to achieve? Did the Government and Electrabel received some signal? How clear was that signal? How many customers left Electrabel over this campaign?
Since the Flemish Green party didn’t provide such an analysis, let me just do this for them. Since I started this blog, I am used to figuring out things. Finding an answer to these questions should be rather simple.