Power Sector: Capacity & Generation
By 2030, under all three scenarios, solar PV increases by a factor 4 to more than 20 GW.
Reflecting current public hurdles, wind onshore and offshore investments are bound to a growth constraint from now to 2030, but both need to double in capacity to be on track towards net-zero.
Under the Central Scenario, the installed electricity system capacity in Belgium needs to increase by more than a factor 5 between 2020 and 2050 - from 23 GW to more than 135 GW (excl. transmission capacity). By 2050, renewable electricity sources (125 GW) represent more than 90% of the total capacity. The technical potential for renewables in Belgium is almost fully utilised: 8 GW of offshore wind, 20 GW of onshore wind and 100 GW of rooftop PV. Investments in 8 GW of e-fuel/hydrogen peak plants– in the shape of STEG plants – take place to mitigate periods of low wind and sun.
Under the Electrification Scenario, the TIMES-Be model invests in a direct connection to 16 GW of offshore wind potential outside of the Belgian North Sea and in 6 GW of Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs), to be operational by 2050. This highly impacts investments in PV capacity and onshore wind. As such, PV capacity increases to 39,5 GW by 2050, which is 57 GW less in comparison to the Central Scenario. Onshore wind capacity reaches 11,6 GW, which is 8,1 GW less compared to the Central Scenario. Belgian offshore wind is slightly impacted: it reaches 7,4 GW due to the higher capacity factor of the far offshore wind farms – 60% of full load hours on a yearly basis. Furthermore, the investments in hydrogen gas turbines are impacted: this technology is no longer selected by the model. Total installed capacity grows to 83,9 GW (excl. transmission capacity), which is the lowest of all three scenarios.
Under the Clean Molecules Scenario – with an import of clean molecules at a lower cost and a limitation on carbon storage to 5 Mton/year – total installed capacity reaches 129 GW: 115 GW of renewables, and 12 GW of hydrogen turbines.
Transmission grid capacity for import and export of electricity is an exogenous assumption aligned with the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) for all three scenarios. The transmission capacity increases from a simultaneous capacity of 6,5 GW in 2020 to 13 GW from 2040 onwards. No costs are taken into account for this transmission grid increase.
Under all three scenarios, electricity generation in Belgium at least doubles by 2050 – from a current 91 TWh to more than 180 TWh (excluding net import).
When it comes to net import of electricity through the transmission grid, we see an increase under all three scenarios by 2030: from a current 3,7 TWh to more than 7 TWh. Towards 2050, the net import differs largely, depending on which scenario is considered. This does not mean, however, that the model only counts on import in times with low wind and solar availability in Belgium. On the contrary: most of the import volumes occur when there is a lot of renewable electricity available in the neighboring member states.
Under the Central Scenario, 87% (158 TWh) is generated by renewable intermittent energy sources (wind and solar), 5% (8,5 TWh) by flexible renewables (biomass CHP and ORC) and 7,7% (13,9 TWh) by e-fuel/hydrogen turbines. By 2050, import increases to more than 30 TWh.
Under the Electrification Scenario, total electricity generation - including the generation of the additional 16 GW of direct offshore wind - amounts to 227 TWh. The Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), operational by 2050, generate almost 42 TWh of electricity, which is 18,5% of the total Belgian generation. The additional offshore wind overcompensates the decrease in production from PV and onshore wind. Renewable intermittent generation generates 179 TWh of electricity, which is 77,5% of the total generation in Belgium. Import of electricity is reduced to 10 TWh.
Under the Clean Molecules Scenario, electricity generation in Belgium is slightly higher – with a total of 185 TWh – than under the Central Scenario. Whereas for renewable (mainly PV) production we notice a decrease of 8,3 TWh, e-fuel/hydrogen gas turbines generate up to 28 TWh of electricity, which is double the amount of the generation under the Central Scenario. Import of electricity is, with its 27 TWh, slightly lower than under the Central Scenario.
By 2030, Solar PV capacity needs to increasex 4
up to >20 GW in all scenarios, to be on track to net-zero 2050.
By 2030, wind onshore and offshorex 2
as no regret in all scenarios.
Battery storage increases to almost19 GW
in the Central scenario.
Electricity Generation & Demand Profile
Representative days to capture temporal detail
Generation of electricity typically follows the demand. When the electricity generation capacity in a country mainly exists of controllable thermal plants – the so-called dispatchable load – this can be planned and followed up. The electricity system, however, is changing towards an integration of large volumes of variable – mainly renewable – capacity. Weather forecasts become much more important to plan generation, and a market is created for short term storage such as batteries and flexible demand to follow generation.
To examine these effects, we need to be able to look into the hourly profiles of a typical day in 2050, which is why EnergyVille has developed a method of working with 10 representative days in a year – split into 2-hourly time blocks – to capture enough temporal detail in comparison to more detailed dispatch models, while keeping the solution time limited.
In the following graphs, we present the electricity generation and demand profile of a typical summer day in 2050.
- Central scenario:
On a typical summer day in 2050, the large capacity of PV installations generates a large peak of up to 55 GW of electricity over noon. In the evening, solar PV is not generating, and wind onshore and offshore are practically not available (about 2 GW) on this specific summer day.
How then can we meet the electricity demand in the evening?
At the moments in time when solar PV is generating a large peak, we see that batteries are charged with a peak of almost 19 GW of battery capacity. In the evening and during the night, these batteries are discharged, so they can start a new cycle during the next day.
As such, on an annual basis, batteries are used for 16 TWh of charging in 2050. E-fuel/hydrogen turbines are not used on a sunny summer day: they generate mainly in extended periods of several days with low wind and solar energy.
- Electrification scenario:
When having access to 16 GW of additional offshore wind and 6 GW of new nuclear SMRs, the generation profile looks completely different. Sourcing wind energy from different regions, combined with the high capacity factor of offshore wind far North Sea, makes it highly likely that offshore wind is available during this typical summer day (13 GW). The more limited PV capacity under this scenario reduces the peak generation during noon to less than 25 GW (compared to the 55 GW under the Central Scenario). Battery storage is needed, but is limited to a peak of 5,6 GW (4,5 TWh annually). Electricity from nuclear is generated mostly during the evening and night. In this study, it is assumed that SMRs can operate in a flexible way. They still operate at full capacity for more than 80% of the year, however, meaning that most flexibility is provided by other sources such as demand response, batteries, interconnections, and so on.
- Clean molecules scenario: A typical summer day generation resembles what we see under the Central Scenario, with exception of the following differences: the higher capacity of hydrogen turbines (12 GW) partially replaces the need for battery storage and import of electricity, and peak battery storage amounts to 13,5 GW (13 TWh annually) under this Clean Molecules Scenario, with import peaks limited to 3 GW.
To accommodate large volumes of variable renewable electricity, the electricity system requests more flexibility. Hence, the electricity demand, in combination with storage, needs to follow generation profiles.
In the residential, commercial and agriculture sector, production of hot water (with hot water storage) with heat pumps/electric boilers happens as much as possible at noon during the solar PV peak. The highest demand peak in these sectors can be seen during noon, while the current typical evening peak for cooking is still visible but smaller.
The electrification of the transport sector creates another opportunity to create flexibility in electricity demand. A baseload demand of 2 GW can be noticed for freight transport and fast charging. Smart charging at home or at work creates an electricity demand of almost 8 GW (depending on the scenario) at noon during the solar PV peak.
Important to note is that smart charging will be crucial to reach a net-zero 2050: to reach that target, at least 1,1 million smart charging stations (7,5 kW peak) need to be installed.
For the energy-intensive industry, the typical demand profile is quite flat (baseload). However, by 2050, we notice a higher demand peak during noon. This is related to investments in centralized hydrogen electrolysers and in the iron & steel and the chemical sector. A total capacity of up to 13,2 GW of electrolysers mitigates the PV peak, and produces 17 TWh of hydrogen in 2050.
As a Sensitivity Scenario, we also modelled possible investments in more flexibility for some electricity intensive sectors/processes. We will make these Sensitivity Results available soon.
Some specific highlights per scenario:
Adding access to an additional 16 GW of offshore wind and nuclear energy into the electricity mix, as is done under the Electricity Scenario, avoids the need for hydrogen-based power production. As such, we see that both under the Central and the Clean Molecules Scenario, hydrogen power plants are installed to generate electricity in extended periods with low wind and solar output.
Under the Electrification Scenario, with higher offshore wind and SMR nuclear capacity, and less than half of the PV capacity of the Central Scenario, leads to lower summer peaks at noon. Smart charging of electric vehicles is more spread out throughout the day. Centralised and decentralised electrolysers are operating in the course of the the day. The combined peak demand over all end-use sectors amounts to 32 GW.
The Clean Molecules Scenario looks more like the Central Scenario, with a difference in the amount and peak demand of centralised electrolysers (3,8 GW). Here, we see that cheap hydrogen import leads to lower Belgian production.
Electricity Generation & Demand Profile
- Central scenario: On a typical winter day, the very high solar PV peak production seen at noon during summer is not present and amounts to 11,5 GW. Battery capacity needed is limited to 2,9 GW. Wind onshore and offshore produces a total of 5 GW during noon, but generation increases towards the evening. The hydrogen plants operate at full load throughout the day (8 GW) and a limited import of 5 GW is essential during the night. Total peak generation tops at less than 30 GW, which is 25 GW less than on a typical summer day.
- Electrification scenario: Additional offshore wind and SMR complements the limited availability of Belgian PV and wind in the Electrification scenario. Total generation is always above 22 GW.
- Clean molecules scenario: The dispatch generation curve resembles the Central scenario, but the higher capacity of hydrogen turbines replaces import and a small share of biomass.
The demand profile on a typical winter day in 2050 looks quite different from a summer day. Peak demand tops well below 28 GW in all scenarios.
- The electrolysers, providing flexible demand during summer, are not operating during winter time.
- Smart charging of electric vehicles is much more spread throughout the day.
- A higher heating demand during winter increases residential and commercial demand related to heat pump operation. Heat pumps do have water buffers, to mitigate a high peak demand during the evening or morning.
Under all three scenarios, the Power Sector fully decarbonises by 2050.
Under the Central and Clean Molecules Scenarios, the net-zero carbon constraint only pushes the TIMES-Be model in the very last time window to invest in additional e-fuel/hydrogen-powered turbines, and to switch off the remaining natural gas CHP's and turbines. Under the Electrification Scenario, more offshore wind and SMR technology support the full decarbonisation by 2050.
The Power Sector, thus, to a large extent, is already carbon neutral in 2040. However, only in the last stretch running up to 2050, the last remaining 2,7-3,5 Mton of CO2 emissions - depending on the scenario – are reduced to zero.
Under the Central Scenario, additional annual investment and operational costs for the Power Sector to reach net-zero increase - from 0,5 billion euros in 2030 to 4,5 billion euro in 2050. Offshore and onshore wind account for additional annual investment and operational costs of about 0,6 billion euro each, summing up to a total of 1,2 billion euros, and PV accounts for 2,4 billion euros in 2050.
Under the Electrification Scenario, the integration of additional offshore wind and 6 GW of SMRs in the power sector increases the annual investment and operational costs to 5,3 billion euros in 2050. Investments in PV and onshore wind are strongly impacted. Whereas this Electrification Scenario is the most expensive with regard to the Power Sector, the total system costs as shown on our Home Page are the lowest.
Under the Clean Molecules Scenario, with access to cheap clean molecules and a limitation on carbon storage of 5 Mton/year, additional annual investment and operational costs for the Power Sector amount to 3,9 billion euros by 2050.
Electricity generation cost
The EnergyVille TIMES Be model gives as a result an insight in the generation cost of electricity, including possible imports from other EU countries. This generation cost can be seen as an indication for the wholesale electricity price. Do note, however, that this is not the price for consumers, as the electricity price for end consumers is subject to taxes and surcharges, transmission and distribution costs.
Under all three scenarios, generation cost peaks in 2025 due to high natural gas prices and decreases again due to investments in renewable generation capacity.
- The Central Scenario leads to an average annual production cost of 94 euro/MWh.
- Under the Electrification Scenario, access to a larger capacity of offshore wind from 2030 onwards and SMR from 2050 leads to lower electricity production costs – the lowest of all three scenarios, amounting to 56 euro/MWh in 2050.
- Under the Clean Molecules scenario, cheap clean molecules lead to an average electricity production cost of 84 euro/MWh in 2050.
Facilitating direct access tofar offshore wind
for Belgium drastically lowers electricity and system costs from 2030 onwards.
From 2040 onwards the need fordemand flexibility
grows drastically: smart charging, heat pump with buffers, battery storage, hydrogen electrolysers.
By 2050 eFuel turbines grow to a capacity of8 GW
in the Central scenario to provide peak power.
By 2050, additional 16 GW offshore and 6 GW nuclear SMR'shalves
investments in solar PV and onshore wind in Belgium.
Energy balance (TWh)
|Losses and own consumption||5,84||6,83||5,69||9,33||16,29||9,76|
Average Electricity generation cost (€/MWh)