The impact of Lower Energy Demand on the Belgian energy system

EnergyVille calculated a new sensitivity scenario to analyse the impact of a system shifts on the Belgian energy system: shifts towards more sustainable patterns in transport and living, combined with a transformation of our industry towards higher levels of circularity, leading to a lower final energy demand for Belgium by 2050. 

What if we could improve our materials efficiency, and create a more circular economy by 2050?

What if our society shifted towards more sustainable transport options?

What if we lowered our thermostat setpoint by one degree and optimized our living spaces?

The SHIFT sensitivity broadens
the PATHS2050 palette

All previous PATHS2050 scenarios and sensitivity runs assumed a constant production output in industry, and no major consumer behaviour changes. The new Low Energy Demand (LED) SHIFT Scenario now presents a new pathway along which – for the first time – service demand is reduced in the transport, residential and industry sectors, turning SHIFT into an explorative ‘what-if’ scenario that provides its own unique insights to the energy debate.

SHIFT thus broadens the palette of the PATHS2050 Platform. Whereas the previous PATHS2050 scenarios and sensitivity runs were mostly based on energy technology and efficiency solutions on the supply and demand side, the new SHIFT Scenario complements this with system shifts that lower the final energy demand throughout the energy transition. Because of the decreased energy demand, 9 GW of additional far offshore wind – imported from further in the North Sea – could suffice. 


       CO2 emissions           Electricity generation          System shifts can
           reduce by                 reduces with almost             save more than


     90%           20%            30B€

            by 2040 through early                            in 2050 by implementing                                    in the power system
          access to clean electrons                                    system shifts                                                         up to 2050
                and system shifts


Key Insights

The SHIFT Scenario reduces electricity generation with almost 20% in 2050, scaling down the size of the power system.

  • In the SHIFT Scenario, starting today, the electricity demand increases with approximately 30 TWh each decade, landing on a 158 TWh electricity demand by 2050. 
  • Electricity generation amounts to 181 TWh, which is up to 20% (32 TWh to 48 TWh) lower than the other scenarios that have an electricity generation of 213-229 TWh in 2050. 
  • The SHIFT Scenario thus reduces the size of the power system by 15 GW, with equal shares in far offshore wind and PV capacity, to achieve this reduction.

The largest impact of the system shift arises from changes in the industry and transport sector.

  • The measures implemented in the SHIFT scenario – such as more recycling of plastics, less use of single used plastics, more circularity and less resource intensive construction of buildings - effectively reduce the electricity demand in our industry with 18 TWh by 2050.
  • In the transport sector, trip sharing and a modal shift towards public transport, walking and cycling reduce the final electricity demand by 13 TWh in 2050. By 2050, road transport is 100% electrified, requiring 16 TWh of electricity per year. 
  • For buildings, more compact living and lowering the thermostat setpoint by one degree result in a smaller contribution to the electricity demand reduction of 3 TWh to 5 TWh. Electricity use for space heating is limited to 15-20 TWh through the use of efficient heat pumps and efficiency measures such as renewal of the building stock.

Power system investment costs scale down proportionally to the final energy demand reduction.

  • The SHIFT Scenario scales down the size of the power system and thereby also reduces the related grid expansions. 
  • As a result, it can cumulatively save around 30 B€ in terms of investment and fixed costs needed to transform our power system between now and 2050.

Achieving climate targets incurs no extra energy system costs if demand can be reduced without comfort loss.

  • Expanding beyond the power sector, the SHIFT Scenario incurs no extra costs for decarbonizing the Belgian energy system by 2050 compared to a scenario with limited climate ambitions, provided that demand reduction can occur without compromising comfort. 
  • Essentially, adopting a SHIFT-like pathway towards 2050 would enable Belgium to realize the energy transition without incurring additional costs.

The SHIFT Scenario pushes CO2 reductions towards 60% by 2030 and 90% by 2040.

  • During the period 2030-2040, the total annual system process and energy CO2 emissions fall from 48 Mton CO2 in 2030 down to 12 Mton CO2 in 2040 – mostly because of additional access to clean electrons, enabled by 9 GW of far offshore wind. 
  • This additional electrification in the SHIFT Scenario thus brings about a 90% process and energy CO2 emission reduction in 2040 compared to the 1990 levels. 

A lower production of new materials results in a lower dependency on CCS.

  • The largest reduction in annual CO2 emissions occurs between 2020 and 2030, still relying for more than one third (16 Mton CO2/yr in 2030) on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). 
  • However, compared to a scenario without the system shift, the SHIFT Scenario presents a decarbonization pathway which is approximately 30% less dependent on CCS technology throughout the energy transition. 

A smaller power system

Electricity generation amounts to 181 TWh, which is up to 20% (44 TWh) lower than the Central+16GW scenario that has an electricity generation of 225 TWh in 2050. This reduction in electricity generation – induced by the lower electricity demand as a result of the system shifts – mainly comes from a reduction in offshore wind generation (40 TWh) and to a limited extent from a reduction in solar PV generation (4 TWh).

The SHIFT Scenario is defined as lower energy demand variant of the Central + 16 GW scenario. The scenario imposes a systemic shift which lowers the final energy demand and as a result, 9 GW of additional far offshore wind – imported from further in the North Sea – could suffice. The SHIFT Scenario thus reduces the size of the power system by 15 GW, with equal shares in far offshore wind and PV capacity, to achieve this reduction.

A lower final energy demand

Compared to the Central + 16 GW scenario, the SHIFT scenario has a lower final energy demand, mostly reducing the demand for electricity by 15 TWh in 2040 and 34 TWh in 2050, resulting in a smaller power system. The SHIFT scenario reduces the demand for fossil sources to a smaller extend, but enough to push the scenario towards a 90% CO2 emission reduction by 2040. 

Download the SHIFT report

You can find a detailed description of the new scenario, the assumptions used for this additional sensitivity and the results in this report.

SHIFT Report

Main assumptions


  • More compact living, reducing living spaces with 16%.
  • A one-degree reduction in the temperature setpoint in buildings.

Passenger transport

  • In the transport sector, a stronger modal shift is assumed by 2050: more or less a doubling of the use of public transport and active modes of transportation such as walking and cycling, and a reduction of the modal share of cars for passenger transport (from 71% to 55%).
  • Increased trip sharing – increasing the average number of persons per car from 1.5 to 2.3

Freight transport

  • For freight transport, similar modal shift assumptions are made, mainly shifting part of the road transport (modal share from 64% to 54%) to freight transport over water (modal share from 14% to 28%). 
  • A 12.5% increase in the loading efficiency of trucks is included as well. 


  • The industry sector is assumed to transform by increasing resource efficiency and evolving towards a more circular economy and manufacturing model. Circularity driven shifts emerge in the industry sector as optimised product design, increased resource efficiency, reuse and recycling. Production of new materials is assumed to reduce: 39% for cement, 33% for ceramics, 18% for high value chemicals, 10% for steel, 15% for ammonia and 11% for non-ferrous metals. The oil refinery sector is assumed to phase out (or transform) by 2050.

The SHIFT Scenario does not allow investments in new nuclear capacity in the shape and form of SMRs. Possible changes in comfort loss, welfare, wellbeing and GDP were not analysed in this study. 

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