"No reason for nervousness over UK gas exports," says Belgian Energy Minister
There is no reason for nervousness about UK gas exports during the winter months, according to Belgian minister of Energy Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen, Flemish greens). A report in the Financial Times last week had caused some concern, but in a conversation on Friday, Van der Straeten (Groen) and British Secretary of State for Energy Kwasi Kwarteng agreed that Belgium and the United Kingdom will continue to cooperate closely.
At the annual Belgo-British Conference, Minister Van der Straeten strengthened ties with the United Kingdom, particularly in the area of energy cooperation in the North Sea and energy safety. There are important subsea interconnections for electricity and gas between the two countries.
"Our country and the United Kingdom want to cooperate more than ever in the field of renewable energy, especially now that Europe wants to become independent from Russian oil and gas," said the minister.
Last week, the Financial Times wrote that the British government could stop exporting natural gas to the European continent if the energy crisis worsens and the country faces a shortage. The UK transports gas to the continent through pipelines that arrive in Belgium and the Netherlands. The possible suspension of gas exports is in the emergency plan of network operator National Grid, along with other measures such as stopping supplies to heavy industry or calling on the population to use less gas.
The article was also discussed by Van der Straeten and Kwarteng on Friday. The United Kingdom has "full confidence" in its own energy supply, according to the Cabinet of Van der Straeten. Moreover, it is an emergency measure that is included in almost all emergency plans and only comes into the picture when all other interventions have been exhausted, the Cabinet added.
"Still, I'm leaving nothing to chance", says the Belgian Energy minister. "We are preparing for the coming winter on all fronts. We are in constant consultation with our neighbouring countries such as the UK to permanently monitor and evaluate supply security."
Both energy ministers also discussed the second power cable to be built between Belgium and the UK. An agreement in principle on the project was signed in February. The project was named Nautilus and will give Belgium access to the vast development of offshore wind energy in the UK. Belgium's second offshore zone, the Princess Elizabeth zone, will also be connected to Nautilus via the future energy island. Belgium's ambition is to quadruple its offshore wind capacity to almost 6 GW by 2030 and 8 GW by 2040.
"The North Sea will be a real sustainable power plant," the minister stressed. "The Ukraine crisis makes it clear that we must work together as European countries to increase our own energy supply. That is why Belgium is accelerating energy cooperation on the North Sea with the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom. By investing in more renewable energy, we not only make ourselves less dependent, we also protect our citizens and companies better against high prices."
Belgian Minister of Energy Tinne Van der Straeten during an economic trade mission to the United Kingdom in May 2022 © BELGA PHOTO JASPER JACOBS