‘The only way to become
climate neutral is together
with your customers’
Eneco plays a leading role in the production of green energy. The company is the greenest energy player of the biggest and the biggest of the green energy players. ‘We supply sustainable electricity generated completely locally from solar and wind energy’, says CEO Jean-Jacques Delmée. With as its star asset Norther, the 44-turbine wind farm near the port of Zeebrugge.
To make sustainable energy achievable and affordable for everyone: that’s Eneco’s goal. ‘We do that for our customers and together with our customers’, says CEO Jean-Jacques Delmée. ‘We aim to become less dependant on foreign energy production. Belgian people and companies are increasingly taking control for themselves. They decide for themselves where and how they generate, use, store and share green energy. This kind of distributed generation system is local by definition. It’s hugely important for companies to make their production and processes more sustainable so as to reduce their environmental footprint. That’s why Eneco is delighted to take part in Take the Lead. ‘This kind of programme is an absolute necessity when supporting companies in their climate-neutral ambitions.’
Solar and onshore wind energy obviously play a crucial role in the supply of sustainable electricity. What’s less well known is that offshore wind energy plays a big role in the energy transition. The showpieces of Eneco’s green energy production are the SeaMade and Norther offshore wind farms. Eneco owns half of the latter.
‘In 2009, we were granted a concession by the government for 44 offshore wind turbines, with a maximum output of 370 megawatts’, explains CEO of Norther, Thierry Aelens. ‘Offshore wind energy is an important element in Belgium’s sustainable energy mix. Offshore wind turbines currently represent an installed capacity of 2,262 MW in the North Sea, accounting for 10% of total electricity demand, equal to an average annual output of 8 TWh. Beyond 2020, offshore wind capacity in the North Sea will double to 4.5 GW. Entering into power purchase agreements with industrial concerns such as Borealis and DSM gives us certainty around revenue, enabling us to invest in new wind farms. In this way, together with its partners, Eneco supports the energy transition’, explains Delmée.
‘At the same time, via contracts lasting ten years or longer, industry can reserve the huge volumes of green electricity it needs to realise its sustainability goals. So that’s a win-win.’
‘Thanks to scaling up and mass production, the cost of wind energy has fallen sharply in the last few years’, explains Aelens. ‘This means that companies are now paying competitive prices for green energy. That’s especially important for energy-intensive businesses. A price rise of a few euros can mean millions on their energy bill. Increased concern for the climate and sustainability has added further momentum to this.’
‘Via contracts lasting ten years or more, industry can reserve the huge volumes of green electricity it needs to realise its sustainability goals.’
What happens when there’s no wind? Surely you can’t still generate power? Isn’t nuclear energy a more secure alternative? A definite ‘No’ from Aelens. ‘Nuclear power stations don’t operate all the time either, especially not older power stations – and the Belgian ones are old. They achieve just 60 to 80 percent of their capacity. Personally, I have nothing against nuclear energy, but you need to build up-to-date power stations. We need a renewable energy system in which we can switch output on and off really quickly.’
‘Offshore wind energy is set to be a cornerstone of our country’s future energy mix. By 2025, it will account for 10 percent of the total electricity generated in Belgium.’
Delmée agrees with him. ‘Here, it takes eight years to plan an offshore wind farm like Norther and two years to build it. For a new nuclear power station, you can expect two times ten years. The choice is quickly made. By the way, if you generate both using the latest turbines, wind energy costs only one third of nuclear energy per megawatt hour. So, electric cars, home batteries etc. will play a key role in the future energy landscape, to balance the national grid at times of too much or too little wind or sun.’
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