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Belgium Chemical Industry: Efficient use of energy as part of sector’s DNA
19 Sep 2017

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Improved energy efficiency throughout the sector led to a clear decoupling between production and energy use. Since 1990, total production* of Belgium’s chemical and life sciences industry has tripled. In the same period, energy consumption increased by only 37%.

The continuous focus on energy efficiency was strengthened by the voluntary commitments of the sector (accords de branche, covenant energy benchmarking, covenant energy auditing). Those agreements cover about 90% of the energy use in the sector. A large number of enterprises of the target group has also joined the new generation of voluntary agreements.

* based on the production index (cf Sustainability Report of essenscia)

Voluntary agreements

A company site located in Flanders or in Wallonia can opt to sign up for these covenants, engaging in energy efficiency efforts going beyond the current legal requirements, while being allowed financial compensations (such as exemptions on taxes and surcharges and eligibility for subsidies) in return.

The main obligations laid down in the agreements, to be met by companies are:

  • Realisation of an energy audit and implementation of the measures which have an internal rate of return of more than 14% for ETS-companies and more than 12.5% for non-ETS. These measures are taken up in an energy plan. A first energy plan applies to the first three years after entry into force of the agreements, and a second plan for the remaining term.
  • Annual reporting.
  • Realisation of a study to determine the economic potential of qualitative cogeneration and of heating and cooling networks to comply with the energy efficiency directive.
  • Implementation of energy management measures or of ISO 50001 at the latest three years after entry into force.

“Energiebeleidsovereenkomsten” in Flanders

The convenant is signed between two parties: the government and the company itself. The companies commit themselves to an energy efficiency audit and to implement cost-effective measures. Measures with an internal rate of return (IRR) of at least 14% should be implemented by non-ETS companies. Companies that are under the Emission Trading System should implement measures with an IRR of 12,5%.

Some flexibility has been made possible in the EBO in order to allow the company to realize energy and CO2 investment projects in an optimal way and to go towards product and process innovation. The flexibility allows companies to substitute energy efficiency measures in the energy plan with a CO2 or energy measures in generation or along the product chain.

“Accords de Branche” in Wallonia

Branch agreements can be made on a voluntary basis between the Walloon government and an industrial sector, represented by its federation. These branch agreements stand for strong engagements where, on the one side, the involved industry deploys measures for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions or for an increase in energy efficiency. On the other side, the government allows the industry a certain number of financial and administrative advantages.

After an intention declaration between the sector and the government, an audit within the companies is completed in order to evaluate the economic potential and to prepare the plans for greenhouse gas mitigation and/or increased energy efficiency. Financial aid for the realization of the audits is also provided in a branch agreement. Following that, quantitative objectives are fixed and agreed upon. Finally, the sector can choose the means of attaining the objectives and reports yearly the efforts and performance achieved to the government.

Current legal requirements

Energy efficiency regulation for industry is a regional competence and legal obligations for energy efficiency measures are described hereunder per region.

Flanders - Energy plan

Companies in Flanders with a yearly energy use of more than 0.5 PJ are obliged to make an energy plan every 4 years (VLAREM II, Art. 4.9.1). The obligation to make an energy plan every 4 year for companies with a yearly energy use of 0.1-0.5 PJ is in force from the moment the environmental permit needs to be relicensed (VLAREM I, Art. 5 §8).

The energy plan contains the measures with an internal rate of return of more than 15%, which need to be executed within the next 3 years after permit approval (Energiebesluit, Art. 6.5.1-6.5.4). If the company has signed a voluntary energy efficiency agreement, the energy plan from the agreement meets these requirements and no additional energy plan is required.

Flanders - Energy study

An energy study is necessary if a permit is required for a new installation in Flanders with a yearly energy use of more than 0,1 PJ. In the case of a permit procedure for a refurbishment of an installation of > 0,1 PJ, an energy study need to be performed if there is a change on  energy use of more than  10 TJ.

For a new plant in Flanders with a yearly energy use of more than 0.1 PJ or a significant change of an operation of > 0.1 PJ, an energy study is required to complete the permit application. A significant change occurs e.g. in the following situations (VLAREM I, Art. 6bis)

  • The operation changes to a higher classification
  • It involves an addition in terms of land coverage
  • There is an added risk (expansion of 50%, MER- or Seveso-activity, ...)
  • There is a change in energy use of more than 10 TJ

The energy study contains a benchmarking of the energy efficiency of the operation compared to similar operations available on the market (Besluit Energieplanning BEP- Art 6.5.4 §2)

The legislation related to permits can be consulted on Navigator.emis.vito.be. The requirements for the energy plan and energy study in Flanders can be found on www.energiesparen.be/energieplanning

Flanders and Wallonia - Energy audit

For all companies that are not SME’s and that do not fall under the regulations for the energy plan, an obligation is set to realise an energy audit. This audit is valid for 4 years. Companies that have signed up for a voluntary agreement as described here under are exempted from this obligation, as well as companies that are certified EN 160001 or ISO 50001.

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