Country Report - Belgium

Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2020

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

The solar thermal market for heating applications and hot water production appears to have returned to growth in Belgium as for the rest of Europe after a decade of slight decline, according to 2019 EurObserv'Er data (+8.4% across Europe in 2018 compared to 2017).

In Belgium, annually installed surfaces of solar collectors reached in 2018 an equivalent capacity of 20,9 MWth, corresponding to a total surface of 29,900 m2 (25,000 m2 flat plate collectors and 4,900 m2 vacuum collectors). The cumulated solar thermal capacity installed at the end of 2018 corresponded to 539 MWth, or 769,956 m2 of thermal solar collectors (for all technologies, including unglazed collectors), placing Belgium as the 12th country across the European Union. It is estimated that the total solar thermal capacity in operation corresponds to 0,047 kWth/inhab. or 0,068 m2/inhab. (for all technologies) (Source: EurObserv’Er, 2019).

In terms of PVT collectors, the cumulated collector area at the end of 2018 (829 m2) was distributed as follows: unglazed water collectors (524 m2); air collectors (290 m2); concentrators (15 m2). The total installed capacity corresponded to 406 kWth. The calculated annual collector yields of all water-based solar thermal systems by the end of 2017 in Belgium corresponded to a total area of 662,333 m2, for a capacity of 464 MWth, and an estimated CO2 reduction of 91,350 tCO2/a (Source: Solar Heat Worldwide).

 

Typical Applications and Products

The main application is heating and domestic hot water production, with a predominant diffusion of of heat pump systems.
 

Main Market Drivers

The market driver is mostly driven by building regulations for new and existing buildings: the regulation requires a certain performance level to be achieved and solar thermal systems can help to reach the requirement. But the main sales in existing buildings are with owners who, for example, specifically chose a solar water heater for environment reasons. Currently, the solar hot water systems are in competition with PV systems coupled with a heat pump.

To better ascertain and contextualise market drivers, it must be considered that in 2019 Belgium exported more electricity than in it imported (1.8 TWh exported/2.1% of the energy mix).

The main developments were a steady increase in (mainly offshore) renewable power generation, better availability of nuclear generating facilities and an increase in electricity exports. Renewable generation (offshore/onshore wind and solar power only) increased by 17% in absolute terms compared to 2018 (11.52 TWh in 2019 as against 9.82 TWh in 2018). The relatively high amount of solar energy generated in the summer, and higher wind generation in winter, highly contributed to these figures. In December 2019, renewables accounted for a record 16% of the month's energy load, with a level of generation, 1.17 TWh in absolute terms, that was the highest ever recorded in Belgium. Offshore and onshore generation records were also broken in December 2019. In 2019, 48.8% of the power generated in Belgium came from nuclear plants. This figure was in line with the total for 2017 (50%). Nuclear plants generated far more power in 2019 than in 2018 (31.2%), a year marked by the significant unavailability of several reactors, especially during the last few months of the year.

Solar energy accounted to 3.5 TWh, or 4.2% (Source: Elia group, Belgium's electricity transmission system operator, January 2020).

 

Employment

Estimates in terms of employment in the energy sector are published by the European Commission and can be retrieved in country factsheet documents (e.g., https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2018-european-semester-country-report-belgium-en.pdf)

 

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings

Scope

The focus in Belgium is on very low-energy, passive and net-zero energy buildings. The obligation to reach the passive standard for new buildings, for example, has been compulsory in Brussels since 2015 and in the Walloon region since 2017. In 2014, Belgium adopted the Belgian Energy Efficiency Action plan, according to the Directives 2006/32/EC and 2012/27/EU article 24.2 Annex XIV part 2.

 

R&D Activities

R&D Programmes

There is no national-level R&D programme for energy in general and for solar thermal energy in particular: the R&D programmes are developed by each of the three Regions: Brussels-Capital; Flanders; Wallonia.

Further information on energy research, innovation and competitiveness in Belgium can be found on European Commission documentation such as the Energy Union Factsheet for Belgium available on https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/energy-union-factsheet-belgium_en.pdf

 

R&D Infrastructure

R&D Institutions
Institution Type of Institution Relevant Research Areas IEA SHC Involvement Website
SPWallonia Energy; Sustainable building 47,50 www.energie.wallonie.be
Bruxelles Environnement Environment; Energy www.ibge.be
Vlaamse EA Energy 42 www.energiesporen.be

Support Framework

Government Agencies Responsible for Solar Thermal, for Solar Building Activities

Relevant authorities at the regional level include: the Brussels Institute for Environmental Management (IBGE-BIM) in the Brussels Capital Region; the Department for Energy and Sustainable Building from the Operational Directorate Generale (DG04) for Spatial Planning, Housing, Heritage and Heritage of the Walloon Public Service in Wallonia; the Flemish Energy Agency (VEA) in Flanders.

 

Information Resources

National Associations on Green/Solar/Sustainable Buildings