Like several other countries worldwide, the federal state of Belgium has decided on a phase-out of its nuclear reactor fleet. In Belgium these assets provide up to 40% of the total electrical energy production and generate the bulk of the baseload profile. With a phase-out timeframe of only five years, this presents the Belgian energy systems with sizeable challenges. The phase-out is especially challenging for industrial processes, for which a reliable and economic source of baseload power is paramount. In the light of ever more pressing environmental concerns, the carbon footprint of this energy source also has to be as low as possible.
In this paper we investigate the potential of generating baseload power in situ through cogeneration methods such as combined heat and power or gas turbine plants, in combination with renewable energy sources. Specifically, we look at clustering energy use and production on the level of an industrial business park or cluster considering both electrical and thermal energy.
First we discuss the potential for energy synergies on business clusters. In the Interreg 2 Seas project ‘Business clusters Integrated Sustainable Energy PackageS (BISEPS)’ we have catalogued the energy use of many industrial sites throughout Western-Europe. An overview of these results is presented.
Next we discuss the design and results of the Renewable Energy Area Collaboration Tool (REACT), which we have created to map and calculate potential energy synergies on the level of a business cluster. We show that the optimization potential of a combined energy use profile is most often larger than the gains that can be achieved by optimising individual profiles. This is especially true for heat production, which is traditionally generated with fossil fuel individually for each company on the cluster.
In the following step, we match the production profiles of renewable energy sources and cogeneration sources to the combined electrical and heat consumption profiles. We show that the carbon footprint of the business cluster can actually be reduced this way, while still providing the same level of reliability and affordability of the current situation.
In a final paragraph we take a look at the viability of partly replacing nuclear power with in situ cogeneration methods, and formulate policy recommendations to advance on this goal. With the relatively short lead time constructing these assets and their mitigating effect on the total carbon footprint, they might provide part of the solution for a nuclear phase-out in Belgium but also other countries.