Belgium and Germany agree to cooperate more closely on energy

Belgium and Germany are already close partners when it comes to energy. Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo and German chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed to expand that cooperation even further, during the first Belgian-German energy summit in Zeebrugge on Tuesday.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zeebrugge has become a crucial link in the supply of both natural gas - from countries like Norway - and liquefied natural gas (LNG) - from the US and Qatar - to the rest of Europe.

Germany got through the winter partly thanks to imports via Zeebrugge, Scholz acknowledged. That kind of European cooperation has kept the continent from falling into a recession, De Croo stressed. "By working together, a recession was avoided. Zeebrugge has played its role as a gateway. But what is good for the German economy is also good for Belgian companies."

Germany and Belgium want to expand this cooperation further. For instance, both countries intend to connect their hydrogen infrastructure by 2028. Belgian grid operator Fluxys is a European frontrunner in terms of knowledge and is working diligently to expand its hydrogen grid, whether or not using existing natural gas pipelines. It remains to be seen if Germany will be ready by 2028.

Fluxys aims to double the natural gas pipeline between Zeebrugge and Germany, which should result in a 25 per cent increase in transmission capacity and an 8 gigawatt increase in export capacity. The LNG terminal in Zeebrugge should also increase in capacity by 50 per cent this year, from 20 to 30 gigawatts.

In addition to natural gas and hydrogen, Germany and Belgium also want to exchange more electricity. High-voltage grid operator Elia and its German counterpart Amprion are considering building a second high-voltage connection between the two grids. The two countries will also cooperate even more closely on CO2 capture and the construction of offshore wind farms.

The enhanced cooperation between Belgium and Germany is part of Europe's plans to become energy independent. That said, LNG continues to be shipped from Russia today, including towards Zeebrugge. "There are no sanctions against Russian gas. The volumes are decreasing sharply, though, in favour of LNG from the US and Qatar," Fluxys replied.


German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo during a press briefing of the Belgian-German energy summit in Zeebrugge. © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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