The Belgian federal ministry for energy approved on Thursday the creation of a 800MW strategic reserve of power capacity by the transmission service operator (TSO) Elia by winter 2014-2015. The decision, taken by ministerial decree, also mandates the strategic reserve to be set aside for a period of three years.
The ministry’s move follows an analysis of the power needs of the country submitted to the government by Elia and a recommendation from the Direction Generale de l’Energie. Both consultations were concluded before the early shutdown of the nuclear reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 on 25 March, which reduced Belgium’s power production capacity by 2GW and led to a bullish opening of the French power markets on 31 March ( see EDEM 31 March 2014 ).
“We believe the 800MW reserve will be enough to reduce risk in the power markets in case another unplanned closure of nuclear plants occurs in the future,” said a spokeswoman for the state secretary of the environment, energy and transport Melchior Wathelet. “However, the ministry has the power to raise the 800MW requirement to a higher level next year, if need be.”
The ministry specified that, had the reserve existed today, it would have not been used to balance the closure of the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 nuclear plants, as “the reserve can only be activated when there is a [power] shortage, which is not the case today.”
The way in which the reserve will be created has not been set in stone yet. The government confirmed that Elia will consider bids coming from companies offering extra generation capacity as well as from large manufacturers offering to cut their power consumption in exchange for a premium.
Reports in the Beligan news paper L’Echo that two natural gas-fired plants scheduled for decommissioning – E.ON’s 385MW Vilvoorde and EDF Luminus’ 465MW Seraing plants – were required by the ministry to apply for the scheme were not officially confirmed. Riccardo Patrian