The Belgian federal government is currently finetuning a shutdown plan for gas if the conflict with Russia should lead to an effective shortage. At the request of Federal Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten from the Flemish Greens (Groen), a survey was sent to around 1,000 large industrial consumers in the country with the aim of finding out where their opportunities or problems lie if the gas supply is cut off. The last thing the government wants is to turn off the gas tap to private households in the country.
In fact, there is a government shutdown plan for gas, as well as for electricity, in case there are problems with the energy supply for whatever reason. Now that the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine is leading to boycotts against Russia as an energy supplier, they want to concretize the shutdown plan for gas and the government wants to take an individual approach to this.
Therefore, large industrial consumers are sent surveys to show how and whether the gas supply can be stopped here. Questions such as the possibility of being able to work “on the back burner” or whether a company can temporarily suspend its activities must be answered here. This includes Febeliec, the association of large industrial energy consumers. Peter Claes from Febeliec told VRT NWS: “We have indicated that there are ways to improve the current shutdown plan.“
However, Claes considers the possibility that the gas shutdown plan will really come to fruition to be very low: “First of all, we have sufficient supplies here in Belgium and we have a very diverse network for gas deliveries. There is gas coming from Norway, from England and from Qatar by ships and via Dunkirk. Belgium is currently only about 4% dependent on gas supplies from Russia.“
However, Belgium is an EU member state and therefore also part of the European solidarity mechanism. This means that in the event of an emergency, our country can and must also supply gas to other EU countries, but, according to Claes, this is not really dramatic either, because “the countries must first activate their own emergency plan and implement their own shutdown plans.“
If an emergency were to occur anyway, the Belgian authorities would first look towards industry, says Febeliec employee Claes: “Some sectors will be protected, e.g. the electricity power plants that are operated with gas and that are necessary for maintaining the power supply. You always want to avoid switching off the gas supply for the families. This is so agreed in Europe.“
“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst,” says Peter Claes about the gas shutdown plan: “I think that there is little reason to worry at the moment, but this does not mean that you should be careless and unprepared.“ Taking a forward-looking approach is the best thing that can be done in such a geopolitical world situation.