The cost of supporting green electricity is rising

The level of support for green electricity in Wallonia reached 113.5 euros per MWh in 2018, a 4% increase compared to 2017, according to a Cwape report published on Friday.

Despite all the measures taken in recent years to control the explosion of subsidies to green energy in Wallonia, the average level of support granted has increased, shows the annual report of Cwape, the Walloon regulator of the energy sector, on green certificates. It reached 113.5 euros per MWh in 2018, an increase of 4% compared to 2017.”Two large installations that produced a lot with little support came out of the statistics.

The explanation is that these statistics only include facilities that receive support. However, in 2018, two major installations arrived at the end of the 15-year period of granting green certificates: the fossil cogeneration of Innovyn, on the former Solvay site at Jemeppe-sur-Sambre (94.5 MW), and that of the Wanze refinery (12.5 MW). “These are two major installations that produced a lot with little support,” explains Pierre-Yves Cornélis, senior advisor at Cwape.

On the other hand, the new installations commissioned are mainly photovoltaic and wind power – two sectors that benefit from significant levels of support. In 2018, 263 photovoltaic sites with a capacity of more than 10 kW were inaugurated, for a total of 40 MW. And 8 new wind farms were commissioned, with a total capacity of 57 MW.

The level of support per sector is decreasing, except for quality fossil cogeneration installations, which are included in the green electricity statistics. For photovoltaics, it fell from 351.39 euros per MWh in 2017 to 269.11 euros per MWh in 2018, while for wind energy, it fell slightly from 66.74 euros per MWh in 2017 to 65.94 euros per MWh in 2018.

The number of green certificates granted is also on the rise. This evolution is again explained by the change in the energy mix of the subsidised installations, but also by an exceptionally sunny year, which led to record production, and therefore to more green certificates granted per MW installed.

In total, the support allocated to green electricity in 2018 is estimated at €575 million in 2018, of which 55% for photovoltaics, 24% for biomass, 20% for wind power, 0.8% for fossil cogeneration and 0.8% for hydropower, a decrease of 1.6% compared to 2018.

An uncertain future

The big question: do sites that no longer have a support system continue to produce? Without this, Wallonia will not be able to achieve its European objectives. “We are not sure about this,” says Pierre-Yves Cornélis,”since we do not have these statistics, and fossil cogeneration in industry will probably continue to operate. Biomass, on the other hand, can hardly produce without support. Hydraulics, which has operated for some twenty years without subsidies, should continue. For wind power, it’s more complicated. The first sites are being dismantled because they were no longer running well, and for those that follow, the maintenance cost may be higher than the revenue generated by electricity production. We hope it will improve with the newer parks.” This is of course problematic in view of the environmental challenges related to energy. At a time of second-hand ownership, a desire to reduce the carbon footprint and raise awareness of climate change, the energy stock still has many challenges to meet.