Belgium exited the coalfired power sector with the closure of the 656 MW Langerlo plant in March 2016
The decommissioning of the Ruien coal-fired plant in 2013 had already slashed Belgium’s coal consumption for power generation. Meanwhile, Belgium’s onceextensive domestic coal mining industry, centred in Wallonia and around Limburg, is long gone. The last colliery, at Heusden-Zolder, was shut down in 1992.
Back in the mid-1990s, coal was still king in Belgium, and generated around a quarter of the country’s electricity supply. However, coal had dwindled to 6% (or 4 TWh) of the nation’s overall 68 TWh electricity generation by 2015, according to Eurostat data. Belgium’s largest utility, Electrabel, part of Engie, has invested in coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Baltic and US biomass producers have been eyeing Benelux markets, including Langerlo.
Last year, Graanul Invest, the Estonian forestry and energy group, had big plans for Langerlo when it bought the plant from bankrupt German Pellets, with an eye on €2.2B government subsidies. Graanul, which is Europe’s largest
wood pellet producer, had earmarked €250M investment to switch the plant to biomass by the end of 2018. Langerlo at full capacity would need 1.8 Mtpa of pellets, and would supply 8% of the Flanders region’s electricity.
But expectations for biomass imports and power have floundered in Flanders. In April, the Flemish Energy Agency, in a volte face on biomass, declined subsidies for the Langerlo project. Last year, a similar decision was made not to offer €100M subsidies for Belgian Eco Energy’s proposed 215 MW biomass plant at the port of Ghent. The Flemish government has instead opted for wind and solar power. However, a 200 MW biomass plant is still scheduled in Wallonia.