8GW offshore features in Belgian 100% RES plan

Wind-focused strategy offers lowest additional energy costs

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Offshore wind capacity of 8GW in Belgian waters is outlined in a report published late last year, examining how the country could ensure that all primary energy consumption is supplied by renewable sources by 2050.

A wind energy-focused scenario is one of multiple options presented in the report. Compared to other options, the wind focused-strategy – which would also include increases in the use of other renewable sources, including biomass and solar PV - offers several advantages.

A wind-focused strategy would result in the lowest net additional energy sector costs and the highest potential financial gains, should the cost of carbon rise substantially.

Adpting such an approach would also allow Belgium to reduce its energy imports sharply, and thus its existing national energy  bill. This would be achieved despite the fact that the scenario allows for unlimited imports of offshore wind-generated electricity from its neighbours, such as the UK, France, the Netherlands and Germany.

The report notes that Belgium's offshore wind installed capacity was expected to reach about 380MW by the end of 2012 and it assumes 2.2GW by 2020. The report also cites a current utilisation rate for offshore turbines in Belgian waters of 3,484 hours of full capacity equivalent.

 Toward 100% Renewable Energy in Belgium by 2050 insists that while the changes needed to achieve 100% renewable primary energy consumption are "drastic", they are feasible, despite Belgium being home to energy-intensive industries and an "energy-greedy" residential sector.

* Meanwhile, the economic contribution of Belgian's existing wind energy sector grew by 69% over five years, to reach an annual boost to GDP of €335.3m by 2011, concludes another recently-published report. During the same 2007-2011 period, the number of wind sector jobs inBelgium jumped by 74%, to total 6,225. During the same five years, the national employment rate increased by only 3.7%. Belgium is home to one of Europe's most successful offshore wind contractors and service providers, Deme Group.

Further growth in wind energy's contribution to Belgian GDP is forecast by the report - €1.4-1.9bn by 2020 and €2.1-2.9bn by 2030 - and the sector's number of jobs is projected to increase to up to about 10,000 by 2020 and 16,000 by 2030.

There is little offshore wind-specific data in the report, however offshore installed capacity in Belgian waters of 2.0-2.8GW by 2020 and 3.8GW by 2030 is assumed.

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