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Market News

 February 27, 2007
Belgium: Renewable Energy Sector

 In Belgium , 77% of the primary energy comes from fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas and coal), 21% from nuclear and 2% from renewable energy sources. Electrabel which belongs to the Suez Group has a dominant position on all electricity and gas market segments in Belgium. Its renewable energy-based production capacity comes to 74 Megawatts (MW) wind energy, 22 MW of hydroelectric energy and 255 MW of energy from biomass.

Almost all renewable energy-based market segments will grow in the future in Belgium in the framework of the application of the Kyoto Protocol. The hydroelectric potential is nevertheless relatively limited.

It is difficult to provide a statistical estimation of the volume of equipment related to the production of renewable energy that is imported in Belgium . Statistics generally are based on the combined nomenclature of the customs tariff. Equipments relating to the sector under review are covering too numerous fields to be statistically isolated. Canadian company executives who know the tariff positioning of the exported pieces and components may contact the Commercial Section of the Embassy of Canada in Brussels to obtain statistical data.

According to the International Energy Agency, Belgium targets a production of 6% electricity from renewable energy sources in 2010.

Wind Energy

Since 2004, new tax incentive measures have been implemented by the Belgian regions in order to stimulate the production of wind energy. ELIA, the electric network managing company is obliged to acquire annually a certain number of green certificates at a minimum guaranteed price. Ecological subsidies are granted to those who invest in renewable energy production equipment. In Flanders , about a hundred of windmills are installed with a total production capacity of 120MW. Between now and 2010, Flanders would like to reach a production capacity of electricity from wind of about 1,000 GWh. A memorandum of the Flemish government has been published in May 2006 aiming to reach this objective through accelerating measures.

The Walloon energy policy is aiming to reach a production of electricity from wind of 370 GWh (approximately 150 windmills) in 2010, from windmills installed on the Walloon territory. Due to the limited size of this territory, windmills of a capacity exceeding 500kW will be privileged. Several measures have been taken to allow the emergence of this technology, among others, the setting-up of a regulatory and administrative framework to establish windmills, according to the Decision of the Walloon government of July 18, 2002.

In addition, the Walloon Region implemented a green certificates regime; created a non technological vade-mecum for the candidate willing to set-up a windmill park; grant subsidies for the achievement of wind force studies and created a position of wind facilitator executive.

Energy from biomass

In 2005, 52 operations were eligible for the granting of green certificates from the Flanders Region obtained further to the production of electricity from biomass. These are operations related to the treatment of sludge from which the biogas has been extracted, related to biogas extraction from landfills and from biomass obtained further to the collection of domestic green waste and from domestic waste treatment plants. For the period 2002-2005, these operations obtained a proportion of 79% of the total green certificates issued by the Flanders Region, corresponding to a production of 968 MWh.

In the Walloon Region, the energy policy aims to reach a production of 5.550 GWh heat from wood for the year 2010. Regarding bio-methanization, the Walloon energy policy targets an energy production of 100 GWh and 225 GWh heat production for the year 2010.

Bio fuels

At the present time, crops allocated to the production of bio fuels are almost nonexistent in Belgium and are geared to small scale experimental projects. From now to December 1, 2007, Belgium wants to produce 48,000 tons of bio ethanol. During the period 2008-2012, this production will amount to 250,000 tons. In order to make the choice of bio ethanol financially attractive compared to fossil fuels, excise duties will be reduced. The law regarding bio fuels was enacted on June 10, 2006.

For the production of bio ethanol, a yearly quota of 250 million litres has been allocated on October 2006 and until 2013, to the following companies: BioWanze, set-up by the German sugar group Sdzucker, which obtained a total quota of 750 million litres; to Alco Bio Fuel, a partnership of the Brussels holding Alcofinance with three firms specialized in livestock feeding products (Aveve, Wal.Agri and Vanden Avenne) which received a total quota of 543 million litres and finally to Tate & Lyle which received a quota of 192 million litres.

The BioWanze project represents an investment of 338 million (EUR 245 million) in a new bio ethanol production plant which will employ 80 people in Wanze, near Lige. The Alco Bio Fuel project, an investment of 69 million (EUR 50 million) will be located near the operations of EuroSilo in Ghent.

For the production of bio diesel, the Belgian government decided to allocate production quotas with reduced excise duties to three Flemish and one Walloon companies. These four producers must be ready to deliver adequate bio diesel supply to the Belgian market from September 1 st , 2007 . Bioro received an authorization to produce bio fuel for the Belgian market to a maximum of 988.5 million litres, or the greatest authorized volume. The Walloon firm Neochim will be authorized to produce 649.6 million litres. Proviron and Oleon received respectively quotas of 256.8 and 348.1 million litres bio diesel.

Solar energy

The solar energy market is very little developed in Belgium . In 2005, total photovoltaic operation production amounted to as little as 0.502 MW.

A European Directive promoting sustainable heating and air conditioning systems was approved by the European Parliament in February 2006. This will certainly play an incentive role on the Belgian market. The solar energy market will develop in future years. The technological choice will favour thermal solar energy which offers a better performance.

Hydraulic energy

This type of energy is essentially implemented in Wallonia . Wallonia is equipped with about forty hydro-electric power plants which produce electricity from watercourse power. Development perspectives in Walloon hydraulic energy involve essentially the improvement of existing sites and the deployment of dams and locks. The objective of the Walloon energy policy is to reach an additional electricity production of 440 GWh in 2010, compared to the year 2000.

In Flanders , hydraulic energy production potential from micro turbines is estimated to 4.2 MW for watermills and to 12.5 MW for the deployment of dams.

Tidal energy is not considered in Flanders due to a too limited potential.

Geothermal energy

Belgian geothermic is oriented towards the exploitation of low and medium temperature areas. Three sites are in operation in Belgium : Saint-Ghislain (76C), Douvrain (67C) and Turnhout (34C). Deep geothermal applications of the type hot dry rock are not implemented due to the great uncertainty regarding available sites, to the efficiency, to costs and to environmental effects. In the geothermal sector, the Belgian market offers no major opportunities.

While geothermic operates hot sources, heat pumps exploit calories from the ambient air, from surface and underground water and from ground. In the framework of the rational use of energy in buildings, the set up of heat pumps is encouraged in Belgium through the allocation of regional premiums. A Flanders technological platform on heat pumps has been set-up in September 2006. This integrated approach grouping gathers companies, knowledge centres, installers, architects, the electricity sector, consumer organizations and the public sector. The objective is to extend the application of heat pumps for building heating and sanitary water at a competitive price.

Opportunities

For Canadian companies, there are business opportunities emerging from the sub-sectors related to renewable energy. The Belgian market is an open economy. Canadian companies can access it by choosing a local partner such as an agent, a distributor or by setting up a branch, a subsidiary or a joint-venture. It is nevertheless possible to sell directly but it is more difficult since buyers appreciate a local contact point. Belgium can be used as a test market or as a starting basis for business development in Europe . It is estimated that the proportion of renewable electricity in the European Union will be of the order of 18-19% by 2010. Other renewable energy sources (bio fuels, biomass) have a lower potential. On overall primary energy, the European indicative target is to obtain a 12% share of renewable energy in 2010. This potential is lower for Belgium . According to Gusbin and Hoornaert (authors of the prospective study 2004 for the Belgian Planning Bureau [Bureau du Plan]), from now to 2030, renewable energy producers can hope getting 5% of the primary consumption in Belgium .

On the short-term, Canadian products or services with a high commercial potential are the state-of-the-art technologies related to the production of bio fuels. Medium term opportunities are offered in the field of thermal solar energy equipment. Companies specialized in the vehicles conversion for the use of renewable fuels present an interest. In the field of services, firms specialized in the field of the sustainable management of energy in buildings can take a share of an emerging market. All innovative products or systems with a high efficiency have an opportunity on the Belgian market. The sector of energy conservation and its architectural applications is in full development. Some market segments, such as solar water-heaters are already very competitive due to the fact that their installation is stimulated by a system of investment incentives. Cogeneration systems engineering is already well developed, hence the necessity to offer a unique expertise. First applications of commercial fuel cells can be introduced on the Belgian market.

Initiatives of the government are rather in the field of a favourable fiscal legislation for the development of the renewable energy sector than in a public investment programme. There is no public investment programme at the present time.

The Belgian market is open to non-Belgian and non-European companies. Usually, Canadian companies that are willing to answer a tender can do it directly providing that they supply requested probative documents on their notoriety and financial health. It is meanwhile easier to appoint a local representative. Some submission to public procurement must be translated into Dutch. Other tenders allow the use of the English or French languages. Canadian companies can query the Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) database, Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union: "Bulletin des adjudications", or the Belgian public procurement database: Books of specification can be directly ordered to the contracting authority.

Most of the contract providers are nonetheless private operators. Most of the renewable energy related projects are indeed initiated by the private sector but take advantage of a favourable legislative context that has been set up for the transposition of European legislation and with additional measures at the federal or regional levels.

Canadian companies interested in penetrating the Belgian market should elaborate a strategy which is compatible with their products or services. Various approaches of the local market are valid providing that the company would be locally represented. The set up of a joint-venture, a branch or a subsidiary is justified when a local manufacturing is needed. It is also possible to work with a sub-contractor for license manufacturing. Regarding agency and distribution contracts, it is important to obtain a legal counselling to identify discrepancies between the contract laws applicable in Canada and in Belgium . Local legislation is available on the Belgian legislative website:

Key trade shows, promotional events, conferences, etc.

  • POLLUTEC 2007 will take place in Paris in November 2007. The Pollutec trade show is largely visited by Belgian companies and exhibitors. For instance, Pollutec 2006 in Lyon welcomed a Walloon pavilion and a total of 56 exhibitors from Belgium .

  • IFEST 2008, Trade fair for environment, energy and safety at work, in October 2008, at Flanders Expo in Ghent.

Key Participants

  • The Embassy of Canada in Brussels can provide tailor-made lists of the main local and foreign companies present in the targeted market, including their turnover and company profile.

  • Canadian companies that are active in the renewable energy sector are not very present in Belgium except Hydrogenics with its manufacturing plant of hydrogen generators in Oevel (Flanders Region). Kraus Global has a distributor selling equipment for service stations in the framework of projects to supply renewable fuels. Carmanah already concluded sales in the Flanders Region. Joint-venture projects between Canadian and local companies are under examination in the fields of solar energy and hybrid buses.

Private and Public Sector Companies

  • It is essentially at the regional level and with inter-municipal authorities that contracts can be concluded with the public sector. Companies covering the defence sector can also target the Belgian army and NATO. Regarding private-sector customers, Belgium companies that are EMAS or ISO 14000 certified constitute an interesting target to introduce renewable energy technologies. Large companies usually have an environment manager who can be approached to present a new product.

  • Delivered products should be in line with current European Directives and some products must undergo a certification process. Companies offering innovative technologies are better equipped to attract notice on the very open and competitive Belgian market. Public-sector markets are usually dealt through a public procurement procedure.

Excerpts from "Renewable Energy Sector Profile -- Belgium", Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, February 2007.