At the end of 2019, the Green Deal was presented, the plan with the ambition of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Shortly afterwards, the world was hit by COVID-19, which led to a crisis in many sectors and also had a clear impact on the energy system. EnergyVille wrote a paper on the impact of the corona crisis on the energy system, points for research and regulation and lessons for the future, and VITO then organised a roundtable discussion with some thought leaders.

Flexibility: What has the corona crisis taught us about our future energy system?

The corona crisis already taught us interesting things in several areas. Due to the temporary drop in demand and a few periods with plenty of wind and sunshine, electricity production was dominated more than ever by renewable energy sources.This is a preview of the future, because in the coming decades the energy system will have more and more renewable sources. In order to keep the system in balance, there is a need for flexibility, both on the production side and on the demand side, with all kinds of storage in between.

Philippe van Troeye, Engie: "Today there is a need to create a stable framework, especially when you look at the evolution of the Central West European energy market. In France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, 90 Gigawatt of controllable capacity will disappear in ten years."

International framework

For the economic recovery after the corona crisis, it is extremely important that sustainable and future-oriented choices are made. That is why Denmark called for the basic principles of the Green Deal to be used as a guideline for a sustainable economic recovery after the corona crisis. Already 19 countries in the EU subscribed to this question, Belgium is not yet among them. Nevertheless, with the Green Deal, Europe can create the stable framework within which sustainable policy choices can be made.

VĂ©ronique Goossens, Belfius: "This can be a turning point, with the European direction leading the way. The European direction is very clear and offers opportunities to take our economy to a higher level. We also clearly see that the market's investment drive hasn't dried up, so that's a good thing."

Nor should cooperation within Europe be forgotten.

Tomas Wyns, VUB: "We are located in one of the largest industrial regions in the world: Rotterdam, Antwerp, Dunkirk, North Rhine-Westphalia. If you add that together, it's comparable to the largest Chinese industrial regions and we're going to have to work together, although there'll also be competition between them."

Future of fossil fuels

Fossil fuels will play a role as a transition fuel, but a complete phase-out in the coming decades will be inevitable. It is important to consider the time horizon and to take into account that current investments will last 20 to 30 years.

Bram Claeys, ODE: "We haven't had a single era where a source of energy has really disappeared. We still have biomass, coal, petroleum. They have to disappear and that will happen because the alternatives are more attractive, better and more comfortable. The phasing out of fossil sources will require an enormous effort from industry, companies, research institutes and the government."

Role of experts

During the corona crisis, the scientist came into a positive light to underpin decisions, and the general public's interest in the scientist was also positive. It is clear that the energy transition cannot be achieved without multidisciplinary knowledge to support the complex choices and to capture progressive insight. Research institutes play a crucial role in this.


View some of the highlights of the roundtable here (the full roundtable is also available)
Post-COVID recovery: Challenges and opportunities for the energy system

+32 14 33 59 26