What does our current Belgian energy landscape look like?
What will a climate neutral society in 2050 look like?
What does it take to get there?
More than 200 EnergyVille researchers have collaborated to answer those three pivotal questions. They have drawn data-driven maps for three different scenarios - each of them describing another possible route for our journey towards a carbon neutral Belgium by 2050.
Three possible perspectives that might change your perspective on the energy debate...
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This is the conclusion our EnergyVille experts came to after hours and hours of theorising, analysing and modelling - all to find out what it would take to get to a climate neutral Belgium by 2050.
How did we reach this conclusion?
By developing the TIMES-Be model *- a model which calculates different net-zero emissions scenarios based on the evolution of technical and economic parameters, and searches for the most cost-effective solution to meet the demand for energy services from today, all the way up to 2050.
In other words: what we have done is gather all the data and run our model, so all you now have to do is gather your thoughts based on our scenario results...
*Interested to read more on our TIMES-Be model? Scroll down to our Background of Model Calculation section here below.
Our fundamental approach for this Central Scenario:
What if we walk the road to a carbon neutral Belgium with a balanced set of options across the board?
In a nutshell, the Central Scenario assumptions consist of a balanced-out array of possible technological options when it comes to energy efficiency, fuel substitution, electrification, the use of synthetic molecules like hydrogen and carbon removal technology.
For more details on our Central Scenario assumptions, visit our more elaborate Method page.
Our fundamental approach for this Electrification Scenario:
What if we walk the road to a carbon neutral Belgium with access to more offshore wind and the option to invest in new nuclear technology?
In a nutshell, these are the Electrification Scenario assumptions we relied on:
Belgium has the possibility to acquire additional access to a large offshore wind zone in the North Sea as of 2030, adding 16GW of offshore wind power. In addition, this scenario allows for investment in a new generation of nuclear Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) operational as of 2050.
For more details on our Electrification Scenario assumptions, visit our more elaborate Method page.
Our fundamental approach to this Clean Molecules Scenario:
What if we walk the road to a carbon neutral Belgium with the options to import synthetic molecules at lower costs and have a more limited access to cross-border CO2 storage?
The production cost of synthetic molecules such as green hydrogen and derivates is highly dependent on the cost of electricity. Under this Clean Molecules scenario, Belgium has the possibility to have access to green hydrogen and other synthetic molecules at a very low cost.
Belgium has no natural locations to store future captured CO2 emissions, and will therefore need to rely on locations in the North Sea and Norway. Under this Clean Molecules Scenario, Belgium’s access to cross-border CO2 storage is limited to 5 million ton per year.
For more details on our Clean Molecules Scenario assumptions, visit our more elaborate Method page.
As is clear from the explanation here above, each of our three scenarios has its own fundamental approach and thus its own calculation assumptions. What all three scenarios do have in common, however, is the fact that we pushed our TIMES-Be model to reach net-zero carbon emissions in Belgium by 2050 for each of them.
Thus, we can paint an overall picture of the general evolution of Belgian final energy use between now and 2050!
Look at the graph below: regardless of which of the three scenarios is considered, reaching net-zero carbon emissions in Belgium by 2050 means the overall energy demand decreases by a third, while the electricity demand more than doubles.*
Now, keeping this general backdrop in mind, let’s dive a little deeper, and find some differences between the results that came from our three scenario analyses.
For a more in-depth look at how clean molecules – such as hydrogen - are accounted for in the model, visit our Sector Results – Hydrogen page.
*This apparent paradox can be explained by the fact that, if practically feasible, electric applications – such as heat pumps and electric vehicles - are far more efficient than fossil fuel alternatives.
While, in 2020, fossil fuels still represent more than 70% of the final energy demand, we see that the demand for them under the Central Scenario decreases and ultimately phases out by 2050.
The demand for electricity, however, doubles compared to 2020.
When it comes to clean molecules, their role grows but nevertheless remains limited; they end up representing 11% of the final energy demand in 2050.
The impact of electrification of the end-use sectors on the final energy demand is rather limited: under this Electrification Scenario, we only notice a 6% higher electricity use than under the Central Scenario. In other words, compared to 2020, under this Electrification Scenario, electricity use is increased by a factor 2,3 instead of a factor 2 under the Central Scenario.
Here we see that the use of clean molecules makes up14% of the final energy demand in 2050, compared to the 11% under the Central Scenario Results.
We also notice that also the Clean Molecules Scenario relies heavily on electricity, with electricity use numbers just as high as under the Electrification Scenario. This can be explained by the fact that limited access to carbon storage causes more alternative electricity-based solutions in industry.
regardless of the scenario.
in the 3 scenarios.
Want to know more about the final energy demand of the demand sectors? Have a look at the Sector Results pages.
Want to have an in depth look at how and where clean molecules, like hydrogen, are supplied and used in the model? Have a look at the Hydrogen Sector Results page.
As stated above, we pushed our TIMES-Be model to reach net-zero carbon emissions in Belgium by 2050 for each of our three scenarios.
Important to note, however, is that our scenarios are not predictions of the future! Rather, they are calculations of cost-optimal transition pathways to an almost carbon neutral Belgium by 2050. This means that reaching those net-zero emissions we talk about here on our platform, does not exactly equal reaching zero emissions by 2050: in all three scenarios, fossil fuel phaseout, electrification and use of clean molecules still lead to a remainder of 2 million ton of CO2.
The reason for this? For some of the hardest-to-abate processes, a limited amount of CO2 will still be emitted. So, when considering the results we here present to you, do maintain this margin of flexibility in the back of your mind: that remaining 2 million ton of CO2 will still have to be removed from the atmosphere by different means, such as BioEnergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) or Direct Air Capture (DAC) - either within Belgium, or abroad.
That being said, let us continue by having a look at what the results of each of our scenarios show us when it comes specifically to the CO2 emissions*.
*Interested to read more on CO2 emissions and how they feature in our model? Scroll down to our Background of Model Calculation section here below.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is crucial in both the industry and supply sectors to achieve fast reductions by 2030. From 2030 onwards, 20 million ton of CO2 emissions are annually captured, transported and stored cross-border.
By 2050, CCS stores 9,4 million ton of CO2 emissions. To reach the net-zero targets, a combination of CCS in industry, electrification and clean molecules will be needed, as CCS is mainly applied to reduce the hard-to-abate process emissions of cement, lime, high value chemicals and emissions of the supply sector.
Power Sector emissions are 25% lower in 2030 and 60% lower in 2040 compared to the Central Scenario.
Starting investments in an additional 16 GW of offshore wind leads to a faster decarbonisation and lower CO2 emissions from 2030 onwards compared to the Central Scenario.
Faster electrification in general leads to 9% lower emissions in 2030 in the residential and commercial sector, while faster electrification of freight road transport leads to 75% lower emissions in 2040 in the transport sector.
Noteworthy to mention is that as of 2050, this scenario invests in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). For more detail on the how and why, visit our more elaborate Sector Results - Power page.
Cheap clean molecules and a limited access to carbon storage lead to higher industrial CO2 emissions in the short and medium term (2030-2040) - an effect which can only be mitigated by 2050. As such, industrial emissions amount to 18 million ton in 2030, which is more than double of the emissions remaining under the Central Scenario.
Only by 2050 do industry emissions under this Clean Molecules Scenario reach the same reduction levels as in the other two scenarios, and this due to the higher use of clean molecules, Carbon Capture Utilisation (CCU) and more electrification.
Reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 will thus require additional efforts to take carbon neutral technologies on board in all sectors. While the use of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in industry helps in realising fast reductions by 2030, we see that with CCS alone the net-zero ambition cannot be reached. A switch to more electrification and the use of hydrogen (or derivates) will be needed in industry, if we are to reach net zero.
CO2 emission reductions in Belgium in the Central scenario, compared to the 1990 emissions.
of CO2 emissions are captured and stored in industry and supply sector, in the Central and Electrification scenario.
Can we reach the European 'Fit for '55' target by 2030 in Belgium? Have a look at the Key Messages page to check out our evaluation.
We all know there is no such thing as a free ride, and that equally applies to the energy transition: an almost carbon neutral Belgium by 2050 will come at a cost, as additional investments in carbon neutral technologies in all sectors will be required to reach our goal.
Therefore, in the graph below, we present three cost components needed to move from a scenario with limited climate ambition - run at a carbon price of 50 €/ton CO2 - to a net-zero society by 2050:
In short, we see that in all three scenarios, up to 2040, the annual energy system costs are 3 - 5 billion euro higher compared to a scenario in which no climate action at all is taken. Taking the Belgian GDP of 2021 as a reference, that is around 1% of it. Once we get to 2050, the differences in the annual costs required to materialise an almost carbon neutral Belgium become larger, depending on which scenario is considered.
A vital note to make here, however, is that these numbers reflect the costs at the energy system level to make that system net-zero carbon neutral, without any loss of industrial production and comfort. What is thus not accounted for or here reported, are the benefits of climate change mitigation: less climate related disasters, health benefits related to improved air quality, decreased dependency on fossil fuel imports, ... benefits which have a price tag that might even be off the charts altogether!
That being said, let us continue by having a look at what the results of each of our scenarios show us when it comes specifically to these annual costs that are accounted for in our TIMES-Be model.
By 2050, when net-zero is reached, the annual cost increases by 21 billion euro per year. Taking the Belgian GDP of 2021 as a reference, that is around 4%.
For a sectoral split of these results, have a look at our Sector Results pages.
Having access to additional capacity of both offshore wind and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) reduces the annual costs of achieving net-zero to 11,7 billion euro by 2050, which is 9,6 billion euro less than under the Central Scenario.
This saving of 46 % compared to the annual costs under the Central Scenario is realized thanks to lower costs of energy import of electricity and clean molecules, a lower need for flexibility options such as smart charging and batteries, and a faster electrification of freight road transport.
For a sectoral split of these results, have a look at our Sector Results pages.
Cheap clean molecules and a limited access to carbon storage do not lead to large cost differences compared to the Central Scenario: in 2040, annual costs are 1,3 billion higher, but in 2050 they are 2 billion euro lower.
For a sectoral split of these results, have a look at our Sector Results pages.
Annual costs increase by 11,7 to 21 billion euros to reach the net-zero target by 2050. This is 2-4% of Belgium's GDP (reference 2021).
Having access to 16 GW additional far offshore wind and 6 GW new nuclear 'Small Modular Reactors' leads to the lowest annual societal costs, 11,7 billion euro, while reaching the net-zero target in 2050.
by 2050, when net-zero is reached.
annual costs increase to reach net-zero in 2050.
For more information about the parameters, assumptions, costs, ... have a look at the Method page for the Working document on the EnergyVille TIMES Be model.
The open source TIMES modelling framework is developed and maintained within the ETSAP technology collaboration program of the IEA - International Energy Agency – and the current version of our EnergyVille TIMES-Be model is the result of more than 30 years of experience in developing energy system optimisation models.
Thanks to the model updates realised in and supported by the FPS Economy Energy Transition Fund projects EPOC, BREGILAB and PROCURA, we are now in a position to present the most detailed, bottom-up, technology rich, full system optimization model of the Belgian energy system to date – an unprecedented endeavour made possible due to our ability to take into account all three of these crucial system optimization model characteristics:
Additionally, just as the energy transition is exactly that – a transition and a work in progress – so is this PATHS 2050 Platform continuously in transition and a work in progress. As such, we continuously identify further areas of improvement, all of which can be found in a detailed report covering our assumptions, sector details and sources, to be found on this website under our Method page.
According to Belgium’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory (1990-2018), CO2 emissions account for more than 85% of all Belgian emissions. Those are the emissions our EnergyVille TIMES-Be model accounts for - not the other GHG emissions such as CH4, N2O or F-gases.
Within the realm of those CO2 emissions, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol foresees a categorisation of three types – or scopes – of these CO2 emissions:
Scope 1 CO2 emissions are direct emissions from company-owned and controlled resources: emissions that are released into the atmosphere as a direct result of a set of activities at a firm’s level. They include stationary CO2 combustion, mobile CO2 combustion and process CO2 emissions. These Scope 1 CO2 emissions are the CO2 emissions our EnergyVille TIMES-Be model accounts for.
Then there are also Scope 2 (owned indirect) CO2 emissions: CO2 emissions that a company causes indirectly when the energy it purchases and uses is produced. Scope 2 CO2 emissions from imported electricity are covered in our EnergyVille TIMES-Be model, but not reported for these three scenarios.
Finally, there are Scope 3 (unowned indirect) CO2 emissions: CO2 emissions a company is indirectly responsible for, up and down its value chain. These Scope 3 (unowned indirect) CO2 emissions are not covered in the current version of our EnergyVille TIMES-Be model.