Memorandum: our ten-point plan for the transition to green energy and electric mobility
These are the 10 points by which EnergyVision believes it can move towards a better, faster and cheaper energy transition in our country. This memorandum was also delivered to all political parties in our country.
1. INVESTMENT SECURITY
Energy transition investments are projects subject to long-term financing. Legal certainty and investment security are crucial (to attract investors, to obtain bank financing, to encourage businesses, to have citizens 'on board').
Retroactive interventions undermine those principles.
As a company, we are not exposed to the Flemish green power certificates (that system ended in 2012, while EnergyVision was only founded in 2014), but we do feel the negative effects of the GSC cut: faltering confidence, turmoil in the sector, threats of bankruptcy among some players, but above all: customer procrastination for new projects ("Who says the government won't penalise me later because I have solar panels? Never mind.").
2. NO SUBSIDIES
Our appeal to governments for years has been: do nothing. Don't intervene, let market forces be market forces. In the Brussels Region there is a specific issue and specific need for intervention (which is specifically linked to the complexity in the Region - high-rise buildings, difficult logistics, more tenants than owners, few own investments), but in the rest of Belgium this does not play a role. Originally a Ghent-based company, EnergyVision is very active in Flanders: we have never, ever applied for any energy subsidies, never participated in the "green energy call" (many of our projects were nevertheless eligible for it). We are quite consistent: green energy is the cheapest energy today, no subsidies are needed for that at all. Don't do anything.
3. FOCUS ON SOCIAL INCLUSION AND DIRECT BENEFITS
It is essential to have people on board with the energy transition. To show them its direct benefits. To not beat them over the head with costs and taxes and climate horror.
Our industry and the government are doing a very good job of telling a very bad story. We talk about the end of the world, or disasters on the other side of the world, or climate targets in 2040 or 2050. While people are waking up to the end of the month. While people are preoccupied with what is happening in their neighbourhood.
Engage people in the energy transition. Show them the benefits. Ecology and economy are perfectly reconcilable. We point to our success stories Brusol and Aster: free solar panels for ordinary people, zero investment for them, an energy tariff that is lower than the social tariff and zero comma zero subsidy. The government benefits, and people who could not participate in the energy transition in any other way now feel the savings it brings them from the start.
4. SHIFTING DISTRIBUTION COSTS FROM ELECTRICITY TO GAS
As a society, we want to get rid of our dependence on gas (Russian or otherwise) and move towards cheap, safe, renewable energy. Seventy per cent of residential energy needs go to heating. Very often this is based on gas, rather than on an energy-efficient technology such as heat pumps, for example. Those heat pumps are only installed in new buildings, where a gas connection is no longer allowed. In renovations, it is almost absent, because the payback period is far too long. Yet the technology is mature and very efficient. The culprit is the distribution costs, which are charged almost entirely on electricity, rather than also on gas or via a general budget. As a result, the payback time of a heat pump is very long.
Provided distribution costs are shifted (towards gas or towards the general budget), the rollout of heat pumps could be much faster, in line with the Netherlands or Germany, for example. Then a model such as "heat as a service" could also become applicable, with heat pumps being placed with households that cannot achieve this with their own resources. In that case, we commit to a roll-out of heat pumps in at least 40,000 homes in the next 4 years.
5. SOLAR AND AGRO-VOLTAICS
Many families do not qualify for solar panels on their roofs. Because they live in a flat, or in a rented house, or have a north-facing roof, or a roof with slates or asbestos, or high-rise buildings are in the way, or there are logistical problems. Ground mounts could be a solution here: non-useful land, such as railway verges, but also a combination of solar panels and agricultural activities (there are plenty of examples of this worldwide and plenty of scientific literature available). One could look here, for example, at the circular that W. Borsus drew up for this in Wallonia: a combination of agriculture with solar panels in very specific situations.
And also: open up the roofs of government buildings and public land, in concession.
6. INFRASTRUCTURE AND REGULATIONS
On a small scale: as soon as we connect solar panels on more than 5 houses in a street (e.g. with Brusol, e.g. with Aster), the local grid fails. All over the country, and increasingly so. Fluvius (Flanders) and Sibelga (Brussels) fall short here.
On a large scale: both renewable energy and electric mobility require grid reinforcement (Elia). The waiting time is up to five years. People and companies cannot wait that long to get their energy bills down, and reduce their energy dependence.
And specifically in Wallonia: every public charging station, and every residential PV installation where the energy is sold locally, is required to apply for a direct line. Result: long lead time and high costs, without any benefit. A change is imminent here (and regularisation for all existing charging stations). The compulsory electricity supply licence that project companies must apply for to sell energy from a local PV installation (this licence is only compulsory in Wallonia) is also in need of revision.
7. FASTER ROLL-OUT OF DIGITAL METERS
Digital meters (and a positive narrative around them) provide opportunities for households to save on their energy costs. Then, of course, they need to be rolled out faster (problem in all regions) and also be readable (problem in the Brussels Region). The negativity surrounding digital meters is unnecessary. They will be an important, much-needed link in the new energy landscape.
8. NO HIGHER TAXES ON PUBLIC CHARGING STATIONS
A municipality in the Brussels region had the sad scoop, but several municipalities have since followed them: suddenly high, annual municipal taxes are being levied on public charging stations. A sounder approach would be to pay a parking and rotation fee to the municipality. But an annual, fixed tax (moreover, calculated as if a charging station were a petrol pump) weighs down. Moreover, it does not lead to a stable investment framework, just when very large investments are needed to provide the country with enough public charging points.
VAT-wise, public charging stations are also penalised. If someone charges his or her car at home in the driveway or garage, this is done via the residential energy contract, at a 6% VAT rate. If someone does not have a driveway or garage and has to charge the car on the street, a VAT rate of 21% applies.
9. LIMITATION OF THE INTEREST INVOICE
As mentioned at the beginning, investments in energy transition are projects subject to long-term financing. This also means that interest costs weigh heavily in the cost picture. In the last two years, these interest costs have quadrupled. Globally, this puts pressure on investments in renewable energy. Consideration could be given to mechanisms (via government guarantees or financing) to provide discounts on interest for financing green/sustainable projects. Such mechanisms would have a direct, positive impact on investment.
10. NO MARKET DISTORTION OF GOVERNMENT VEHICLES AND RULES
Our advice is: above all, do nothing. That also means: let the market be the market, do not distort the market. Regional governments are themselves active investors in renewable energy, both through funds and escos, and are thus in direct competition with private players. If those government vehicles are then also allowed to follow different rules (remember the different approach for companies versus governments at the Flemish level: companies would see their green power certificates scrapped, municipalities and governments would be allowed to keep them), private initiatives are put at a disadvantage, while they are crucial for the roll-out of renewable energy.