Belgian research institutes join forces to develop models for a sustainable and cost effective energy future in Belgium

In the context of the energy transition fund and on the recommendation of the Minister for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development Marghem, the Minister Council has approved the EPOC 2030-2050 (Energy technology modelling framework for POlicy support towards a Cost-effective and Sustainable society in 2030 and 2050) project. EnergyVille/VITO will coordinate this project which will unite for the first time more than 14 Belgian energy related institutes representing more than 400 scientists and energy experts in one research project.

The challenges: more than discussing about nuclear power plants

By 2030, Belgium is expected to lower its non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions by 35% compared to 2005 levels. The energy problem is prominently present in the Belgian news nowadays, especially a possible extension of the lifetime of nuclear reactors is a highly debated topic among politicians. However, this question represents only a part of the problem, the overall challenge of a transition towards a sustainable and cost effective energy future is much more complex. For instance, more than 80% of our heating demand is covered by fossil fuels, while also the transport sector is still heavily reliant on gasoline and diesel. Introducing electric vehicles and heat pumps can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but presents challenges for the current electrical grid. As the electricity generation is increasingly covered by renewable energies such as solar and wind energy which are not continuously available, the energy market is evolving to a system where more flexibility is needed.

Why energy models

Therefore, we need energy models which take all aspects of the energy system into account. Energy models shed light on the most cost effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, maintain a continuous supply of electricity and heat and still keep the consumer’s energy bill under control. Technological parameters are taken into account, such as the decreasing price of battery storage and renewable energies, but also the role of regulation (for instance subsidies for heat pumps, renewable energies or renovation), market actors (producing and selling electricity) or consumers play an important role.

The EPOC 2030-2050 project

A lot of knowledge and expertise is present in Belgian research institutes on energy modelling. Different models are used, such as techno-economic investment models, generation dispatch models, market models, transport models, building models etc. The goal of the EPOC 2030-2050 project is to combine the expertise of the Belgian research community by linking the different energy models, carefully discussing the input data used and applying them to the Belgian situation. This will support policy makers in their decisions with respect to the energy future in Belgium towards 2030 and 2050.

The overall approach of the EPOC 2030-2050 project presents is a first-of-a-kind in the Belgian energy sector, never before have such a wide range of academic partners collaborated in one energy modeling research project. The project is coordinated by EnergyVille/VITO, and the participating research institutes are: Imec, KU Leuven, UHasselt, ICEDD, the Federal Planning Bureau, WaterstofNet, Transport & Mobility Leuven, Ugent, UMons, KMI (Het Koninklijk Meteorologisch Instituut van België), UCL, ULiège and ULB.

A wide range of Belgian stakeholders have already committed to support the scientific project work and will contribute by validating the input parameters used in the models and by critically reviewing the results of the models which will outline potential energy pathways for Belgium.