Winter plan should prepare Belgium and neighbouring countries for difficult winter season

The federal government on Friday approved a winter plan to help Belgium, and especially neighbouring countries, get through a difficult energy winter. "The question is not so much whether we will have enough energy, but whether we can show maximum solidarity with our neighbours," Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen) said.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has seriously disrupted the European energy supply. Now that it is summer, the consequences are still relatively limited, but according to Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen), Europe can expect a harsh winter. The government has therefore launched a winter plan with a number of measures to prepare for the short and longer term.

This is not so much to do with security of supply in Belgium. Gas enters the country mainly via direct connections with Norway and the United Kingdom and via the LNG terminal in Zeebrugge. Therefore Belgium is less vulnerable to interruptions in the Russian gas flow.

France and Germany

However, large neighbouring countries such as France and especially Germany could face problems next winter, which would have a major impact on the Belgian economy and energy prices.

"The question is not so much whether we will have enough energy, but whether we can show maximum solidarity with our neighbours," Van der Straeten said Friday at a press conference after the council of ministers.

One of the most striking measures is the possible extension of the life span of the nuclear power plant Tihange 2, which is due to close on 1 February, possibly until the beginning of March. Specifically, the government is asking operator Engie to discuss this with the nuclear safety authority FANC. If that authority gives the green light, the government will adjust the legal framework, Van der Straeten said. An Engie spokeswoman said Thursday that an expansion of Tihange 2 - and also Doel 3 - would be impossible for technical and safety reasons.

Additional measures

In addition, the gas storage capacity in Loenhout in the province of Antwerp will be fully filled by the winter. Producers are asked not to schedule maintenance in the winter, while companies must have their own internal emergency plan for when supplies are interrupted. The federal government is also doing its bit by turning down the thermostat in government buildings.

Prime minister Alexander De Croo also made a broader appeal not to waste energy. "We can handle the energy war that Putin has started, but only if we stand shoulder to shoulder. Eleven million little ones make one big one."


© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK - Illustration picture shows Tihange nuclear power plant pictured ahead of a protest with protesters from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany at the nuclear power plant in Tihange to claim the immediate shutdown of the nuclear power plants Tihange 2 and Doel3.

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