Belgian industry currently faces a double competitive disadvantage in terms of energy prices. In fact, like the rest of Europe, it is suffering from the aftermath of the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia. But even large Belgian electricity consumers have to deal with electricity prices that are 19 to 25% above the average in central and western Europe, according to a study by consultancy Deloitte on behalf of Febeliec, which represents industrial electricity consumers and natural gas.
In 2022, Belgian “base load” consumers (ie who have constant electricity consumption throughout the day, a majority profile among Febeliec members, ed.) paid between a fifth and a quarter more for their purchased electricity than the average price paid by consumers in Central and Eastern Europe, according to the 10th edition of this annual comparative study. The phenomenon is more advanced in Wallonia (where the price is 20-25% higher) than in Flanders (where the price is 19-20% higher).
On an annual basis, the handicap can therefore reach 2.94 million euros in Flanders and 3.81 million in Wallonia for a company consuming 100 GWh per year. And come to almost 26 million euros in the north of the country and 28 million euros in the south when it comes to profiles that reach 1,000 GWh annual electricity consumption.
Prices have also increased exponentially in all European countries over the past year, and even more so since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Only France performs well thanks to its ARENH mechanism, which allows electricity from nuclear power plants to be reserved at a competitive price for producers. Electricity taxes have continued to rise slightly and transmission grid tariffs have remained significantly higher than in neighboring countries (France, Germany and the Netherlands), notes Febeliec.
Belgium thus has a “huge” competitive disadvantage compared to its competitors in neighboring countries, but also significantly lower energy prices in large parts of the world, such as North and South America, Russia, Africa or even Australia. “Such a structural disadvantage seriously jeopardizes industrial activity in Europe and Belgium“, warns Febeliec. The latter could lead to missing out on significant investments from large industrial groups operating in Belgium in particular.
The association has been sounding the alarm for several years. And “remains baffled by the inaction of our various governments“, in the words of its President Luc Sterckx, then “that it is clear that many decisions could be made immediately“to remedy this situation and respond to inquiries”urgent and explicit“.
Febeliec welcomes the introduction of the energy standard at the federal level. This concept, which she has been talking about for ten years, envisages carrying out a comparative study, probably under the aegis of the Electricity and Gas Regulatory Commission (Creg), and proposing measures when it reveals a handicap for Belgian industry compared to neighboring countries . However, the association insists on the urgency of implementation. “But this standard will not solve all problems. It’s a start“ commented Peter Claes, administrator of Febeliec.