(Montel) Belgium needs an extra 1,600-1,700 MW of reserve capacity to guarantee security of supply and avoid having to trigger a plan of rolling power cuts, or “brownouts”, this winter, TSO Elia warned late on Wednesday.
“It’s 3,000 MW of nuclear capacity that disappear until mid-December.”
“Even if the Belgian and international market provide us with all available capacity, we cannot rule out activating the load shedding plan,” the TSO added.
Faced with a supply crunch four years ago the TSO drew up a plan of rolling power cuts across regions.
The plan was a last resort, however, designed to avoid “total blackouts” in the country, Elia told Montel.
Belgium heads into winter with 25% of its total manageable production capacity out of service due to unplanned reactor outages at Doel 1 (433 MW), Doel 2 (433 MW), Tihange 2 (1,008 MW) and Tihange 3 (1,038), the TSO said.
Elia was “actively working with responsible parties to research and develop appropriate solutions”, it added.
“We also call on all market players and suppliers to assume their legal responsibility and to ensure that their portfolio is balanced at all times,” it said.
One option to tackle the supply crisis was for Engie to postpone a planned outage from 20 October to end of November at its Tihange 1 (962 MW) reactor, Elia said.
However, an Engie spokesman told Montel there was “no way” it could cancel the outage “due to safety reasons”.
The firm could potentially cut the length of the outage although for the moment this was not planned, the spokesman added.
Engie, which is Belgium’s dominant producer running seven reactors under its Electrabel subsidiary, had agreed with the energy ministry to make available 750 MW of extra capacity this winter, the spokesman said, confirming comments by energy minister Marie-Christine Marghem.
Some 250 MW of this would come from the recommissioning of a gas-fired unit at Vilvoorde, while it could fire up diesel generators worth an extra 200 MW and “optimise” gas-fired plants during peak hours that would bring in 100 MW more.
Triggering demand-side measure could cut industrial demand by a further 100 MW, it added.
Belgium’s winter demand is likely to peak at around 13,000 MW, as it did last year, and above the country’s installed power generating capacity.
Concerns about supply security were heightened last week after Engie decided to extend outages by six months at its Tihange 2 and 3 reactors, following the discovery of cracks in concrete at adjacent bunker buildings.