Solar Magazine – Flanders enters into new energy policy agreements to promote the energy conversion industry

At the end of December 2022, the current energy policy agreements, which began in 2015, expire. These agreements are a voluntary collaboration between the Flemish government and energy-intensive companies with industrial activity, whereby the participating companies undertake to make an extra effort in relation to what is mandatory in the field of energy efficiency to improve energy efficiency. increase the efficiency of their business.

Two-thirds goals
Figures show that the initiative is hugely successful. By 2020, 349 sites had signed one of the energy policy agreements. Together, they account for about 98 percent of energy consumption in the energy-intensive industry in Flanders.

The energy savings achieved by these companies make a very important contribution to the energy saving targets imposed on Flanders through the European Energy Efficiency Directive (EED). For the period 2014-2020, the total contribution is 34.3 million megawatt hours compared to the Flemish energy efficiency target of 47.75 million megawatt hours. The companies thus achieve about two thirds of the Flemish target.

4 years
The continuation of the energy policy agreements is a decision of Minister Demir and Minister Brouns, who thus implements the Flemish coalition agreement. It raises the level of ambition in the new energy policy agreements.

First and foremost, the target group of the agreements is extended to all energy-intensive companies. From next autumn, around 500 companies – with an energy consumption of at least 27.8 gigawatt-hours – will again be able to sign a 4-year agreement, from 1 January 2023 to 31 December 2026. year with major investments in climate and energy conversion, but they also benefit from it themselves. They take their social responsibility, contribute to a better living environment, but at the same time reduce their own energy costs’, says Minister of Energy Zuhal Demir. Minister of Economic Affairs Jo Brouns adds: ‘Everyone must contribute to climate and energy change, including industry. This is a social commitment and a responsibility that we all carry. But for all the effort that is expected, they will also benefit from it. ‘

Specific energy legislation
In order to make even more companies save energy, there will now also be specific energy legislation for non-energy-heavy companies. This is because the current Flemish energy rules do not impose any obligations on non-energy-intensive companies to engage in energy management. From now on, the Flemish government will change that.

Specifically, non-energy-intensive companies must have made an energy audit that gives them a clear insight into the specific energy-saving measures that can be implemented in the company. The cost-effective measures – with an internal return (IRR) greater than 13 percent – must then be implemented within a period of 4 years. In addition, small and medium-sized enterprises with an energy consumption between 5.6 and 13.9 gigawatt hours must prepare a global energy balance, where both the energy consumption profile and the company’s energy flows are mapped. This group of companies must also implement a number of no-regret measures to further increase their company’s energy efficiency. The goal is to improve the energy efficiency of around 1,500 non-energy-intensive companies, to reduce their costs and thus contribute to the realization of the energy efficiency and climate goals.

New conditions
Compensation for indirect emission costs, which compensates for the high European CO costs of the electricity-intensive industry, will also be addressed. This system ensures that Flemish companies can remain competitive on the world market and do not suffer a competitive disadvantage with companies outside the EU that produce less climate-friendly. The Flemish government is now reforming this measure: fewer companies are eligible and the amount of aid is calculated more rigorously. In addition, companies must also indicate how they move towards climate neutrality in 2050.

As part of the new compensation conditions, companies must reinvest half of the support amount in energy or CO2 savings or renewable energy if they do not live up to the standards for efficient production and must enter into the new energy policy agreement with an energy saving commitment.

Commitment solar panels
In order to achieve the Flemish energy and climate goals, Flanders is committed to increasing the share of renewable energy sources. There is still an important untapped potential for solar energy production, which can still be realized on unused large roof surfaces. After many years of economic encouragement, the Flemish government chose to oblige the remaining owners of buildings with an electricity consumption of more than 1,000 megawatts to take responsibility for on-site solar panels, at least 10 percent of the total roof area; converted 12.5 watt peak per square meter of roof area. These 10 percent will be gradually increased: in 2030, the percentage will be 15 percent (or 18.75 watts peak per square meter) and in 2035 20 percent (or 25 watts peak per square meter). The obligation applies to approximately 2,500 companies. In addition, this lighting also applies to approximately 700 government buildings. An electricity consumption of 500 megawatts per hour applies and from 2030 for approximately 1,500 government buildings, when the limit is lowered further to a decrease from 250 megawatts.

The solar panels must not only be placed on the roof, but can also be placed on marginal grounds, carports and bicycle sheds or you can choose floating solar panels on the water. In addition, the Flemish government provides the opportunity to fulfill the obligation by investing in new wind turbines or bio-cogeneration if they produce a similar amount of electricity or by participating in new solar panels, wind turbines or bio-cogeneration.

No more procrastination
“We need to take action together as soon as possible and in the long term to keep the energy bill affordable for families and competitive for businesses,” said Minister Zuhal Demir. ‘Anyone who has a suitable roof should no longer be exposed to solar panels. The purchase price has fallen sharply in recent years, while the price of electricity has risen sharply, making this climate-friendly investment extremely profitable. There is still financial support for families and businesses for a while, but it will disappear in the following years. In addition, from 2025, the largest electricity users in Flanders will be obliged to produce part of their own electricity with solar panels. ‘

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