Does Belgium really keeps some of its neighboring countries from having blackouts? That is the strong claim from the Belgium Prime Minister made at the end of last year in his response to the criticism of his current energy policy (see previous post). That is hard to believe, so I tried to find more information about which countries Belgium kept from blackouts and how much electricity we had to spare back in December. On the same web page that reported on the response of the Prime Minister, there was also the response of the Minister of Energy and luckily she made some clarifications (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):
What is going on? The problems in France are gigantic. Of their 61 GW capacity, they have 35 GW available today. This means that they have to count on imports so that they don’t have a blackout, no shutdown this winter. And where do their imports come from? It comes from Belgium. Belgium, traditionally an importer from France, exports today its electricity to France. It is about 2.8 GW. This means that we have two power plants permanently running in Belgium to supply France with electricity.
That doesn’t make any sense. Not sure which two power plants together have that capacity, but 2.8 GW is roughly one fourth of the total Belgian capacity that was needed at the beginning of December last year! It seems pretty unlikely that we were able to dedicate at least that much capacity to export to France. I write “at least”, because, remember, our Prime Minister claimed that Belgium kept countries (plural) from having blackouts. That means that there should be at least one other country that Belgium prevents from having blackouts. So, how is it possible that Belgium suddenly has more than one fourth of its capacity to spare this winter?!?! That is nevertheless what they both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy are suggesting.
Time to take a look at the data…