Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a state in Western Europe. Its capital city is Brussels. The country borders the Netherlands (to the north), Germany (to the east), Luxembourg (to the south-east), France (to the south-west). In the north-west the country has access to the North Sea. According to 2018 statistics, Belgium, which in terms of size is placed 136th in the world, is home to around 11.6 million people. In terms of population density, the country ranks 22nd in the world out of the 246 countries considered [1,2,3]. The total length of the country's coastline is 66.5 km . The political form of government is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, and the official languages are Dutch, French and German. The administrative map of the country is divided into 3 regions .
Belgium, a member of the European Union, has a balanced modern market economy, which is reflected in Figure 1. For six of the shown indices, the kingdom positions higher than the world average, in the top quarter of the graph (i.e. among the top 25% of the countries included in the rating).
The inflation rate indicator, however, demonstrates a result slightly below the world average.
Since the early 1990s, the country has experienced a steady growth in GDP at purchasing power parity, both in general and per capita [4,5]. GDP at purchasing power parity increased from $513 billion in 2015 to $529.2 billion (37th in the world) in 2017 . The country’s GDP at purchasing power parity per capita is somewhat higher (35th in 2017), and has also been demonstrating positive dynamics: from $45 700 in 2015 to $46 600 in 2017 . The inflation rate grew from 1.8% in 2016 to 2.2% in 2017; Belgium ranks 118th out of 226 countries for this indicator from a smaller to a larger value, which however, does not always unambiguously characterize the state of the economy . By the level of market value of publicly traded shares in 2015, the country was 25th in the world, behind Sweden and Italy.
According to The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, presented by the World Economic Forum, Belgium ranks 20th out of a total of 137 countries considered; behind the Netherlands and Luxembourg, but ahead of France. This rating reflects the effectiveness of the use of the country’s own resources for sustainable development. In addition to a number of economic indicators this index also takes into account such variables as education, health, level of innovation, etc.
In the list of countries that exported high-tech products in 2015-2016, the country placed 14th out of 151 countries, ahead of the world average. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, which is based on freedom of business, freedom from government intervention, property protection, and freedom from corruption, Belgium was 52nd in 2018 and 48th in 2019 out of the 180 countries considered. In terms of gold reserves and foreign exchange reserves in 2016 the kingdom was 55th in the world, behind a number of European countries. According to the indicator for the average GDP growth in percentage over the last 10 years, in 2017 the country was 164th out of 200 countries. In terms of public debt, calculated as a percentage of the country's GDP, Belgium was ranked 187th out of 202 countries considered in 2017.
For more information about the economic development of Belgium is available here.
In Belgium, there are practically no significant fossil fuel reserves. To meet domestic energy demand, the country relies on the import of fossil resources, which in 2017 amounted to almost 77.7% of the total (Fig. 5).
In the absence of conventional reserves, Belgium has significant renewable resources for energy production, including a high potential for wind energy utilization. A selection of basic indicators of this type of resource is presented in Table 1.
Table 1. Renewable energy resources of Belgium
| Hydro energy|
|Unit||kWh/m2/day||m/s||TWh/year||% of land area||% of land area||MWe||kg per capita|
*for the majority of the territory of the country
**gross theoretical capability
The level of global horizontal radiation in the majority of the country is between 2.7-3.0 kWh/m2/day . In the country’s west and southeast regions, and in the coastal areas of the North Sea this indicator can be over 3.0 kWh/m2/day .
The distribution of wind resources is as follows: in most of the country the wind speed is < 5 m/s ; however along the coastline with the North Sea, wind speed can be over 6.5 m/s, and in the coastal areas of the North Sea this indicator can reach more than 9.6 m/s at a height of 90 meters.
The gross theoretical capability of hydro power in the country is only 1 TW/year, which is insignificant compared to, for example, France and Germany, where the theoretical potential is 270 and 120 TW/year, respectively . In 2016, about 44.6% of Belgium was covered by agricultural land . This area is decreasing, however the country is experiencing a slight increase in forested area, which covered 22.6% of the country in 2016, compared to 22% in 2000 . In 2008 the potential of geothermal resources of Belgium was 82 MW . The level of generation of municipal waste in Belgium was 409 kg per capita in 2018, lower than in a great number of developed countries, such as the Netherlands, – (513 kg per capita), and Denmark – (718 kg per capita) . This resource is a valuable raw material for recycling or producing energy, the technologies of which have reached a very high level of development in Belgium.
A detailed list of sites and special reports on Belgian energy can be found here.
According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, total primary energy consumption in Belgium in 2018 was 62.2 million tons of oil equivalent, with around 54.8% coming from oil, 23.3% from natural gas, 10.3% from nuclear energy, 6.1% from renewable energy, 5.3% from coal, and 0.2% from hydropower . Using the data from [3,13] we calculated the value of Belgium’s GDP per unit of energy use in 2017 to be $8.5, taking into account the PPP in 2011 (the equivalent of energy contained in one kg of oil) which is slightly lower than the world average energy efficiency of GDP.
Oil production between 2001-2017 remained practically unchanged, not exceeding the level of 28,800 barrels/day, and remaining at that level in 2017 . The volume of oil consumption also remained practically unchanged, with small annual fluctuations (Fig. 2), and in 2017 amounted to 637,000 barrels/day .
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (Jan 2020) / www.eia.gov
Figure 2. The production and consumption of fossil fuels in Belgium (coal – left, gas – in the center, oil – right)
BP’s review shows higher oil consumption rates in Belgium in 2018 – 703,000 barrels/day . Oil imports, according to , amounted to 687,600 barrels/day in 2017. The consumption of natural gas in the country between 2001 and 2010 grew gradually, reaching a peak of 700 Bcf in 2010; however, since 2011 it has been decreasing and in 2017 totaled 605 Bcf . According to the ВР Statistical review of World Energy 2019  gas consumption in 2018 was 16.9 Bcm.
According to  the import of natural gas to Belgium in 2017 was 18.09 Bcm.
Coal consumption in the country has been gradually decreasing since 2001. In 2017 4.1 million short tons were consumed . According to BP's report, in 2018, coal consumption totaled 3.3 million tons of oil equivalent . Historically, Belgium has relied on fossil fuels for electricity production (Fig.3). It is important to notice the trend of a significant reduction in energy consumption throughout the country. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2017, Belgium produced 80.89 TWh of electricity, where fossil fuels accounted for 29.6%, nuclear energy – 49.7%, renewables – 20.4%, and hydroelectricity - 0.3% (Fig.6).
Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration (Jan 2020)
|Figure 3. Electricity production in Belgium|
Belgium’s position in the comparative diagram of energy index is shown in Figure 4. As previously mentioned, fossil energy resources in Belgium are practically absent, therefore the first six indices are either not represented or are in the lower quarter of the diagram.
1. Crude oil proved reserves, 2017/International Energy Statistic/Geography/U.S. Energy Information Administration (Aug 2018) *93
2. Natural gas proved reserves, 2017/International Energy Statistic/Geography/U.S. Energy Information Administration (Aug 2018) *99
3. Total recoverable coal reserves, 2015/International Energy Statistic/Geography/U.S. Energy Information Administration (Aug 2018) *81
4. Combination production-consumption for Crude oil, 2015/International Energy Statistic/Geography/U.S. Energy Information Administration (Aug 2018) *214
5. Combination production-consumption for Natural gas, 2015/International Energy Statistic/Geography/U.S. Energy Information Administration (Aug 2018) *111
6. Combination production-consumption for Coal, 2015/International Energy Statistic/Geography/U.S. Energy Information Administration (Aug 2018) *127
7. Electricity – from other renewable sources (% of total installed capacity), 2015/The World Factbook/Library/Central Intelligence Agency *166
8. GDP per unit of energy use (PPP per unit of oil equivalent), 2017; Primary energy consumption - BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018/BP;
GDP (purchasing power parity) - The World Factbook/Library/Central Intelligence Agency *66
9. Energy use (primary energy use of oil equivalent per capita), 2017; Primary energy consumption - BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018/BP; Population -
World Population Prospects/United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017), World Population Prospect: The 2017 Revision,
Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP/248/ *66
10. The Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report (EAPI) 2017, Rankings/Reports/World Economic Forum *127
11. Electric power consumption (kWh per capita), 2015-2016; Electricity Consumption - The World Factbook/Library/Central Intelligence Agency; Population -
World Population Prospects/United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017), World Population Prospect:
The 2017 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP/248/ *212
12. Combination of electricity production-consumption (kWh), 2015-2016/The World Factbook/Library/Central Intelligence Agency *216
* Total number of countries participating in ranking
|Figure 4. Energy indices of Belgium|
In terms of the share of electricity production from renewable energy sources (excluding hydropower), in 2015 Belgium ranked 11th, out of 122 countries selected for consideration.
In the Energy Architecture Performance Index 2017, which is based primarily on level economic growth, environmental safety, and energy independence of the country, including access to energy, Belgium places 34th out of 127 countries. Over the last 8 years the country has lost 7 positions in the rating.
In terms of GDP per unit of energy use Belgium in 2017 is 45th out of 66 countries, but this indicator per capita is substantially higher– 15th place in the world.
In terms of electricity consumption per capita, the country is 31st in the world, however, for the indicator of combination of electricity production-consumption, Belgium is 214th in the ranked list of 216 countries.
For more information on the energy balance of Belgium, see the documents in our link library here.
A territorial map of the distribution of the largest infrastructure projects of the fossil-fuel sector in Belgium is shown in Figure 5. In 2016, Belgian refineries had a total installed capacity of 739,800 bpd . The largest refinery in the country is owned by Total and is located in Antwerp with an installed capacity of 360,000 bpd . (Fig. 5). The country's only oil terminal is in Antwerp and is also home to the largest oil product storage facility with a reservoir volume of 1,100,000 m3 [17,18].
Figure 5. Basic infrastructural facilities of the fossil fuel sector in Belgium
Transportation of crude oil and petroleum products is carried out via pipelines with a length of 154 km and 535 km, respectively (Fig. 5). The Belgian gas system is represented by four gas processing plants and one gas storage facility; gas is transported within the country via a network of pipelines with a total length of 3,139 km (Fig. 5). Gas imports are carried through the Zeebrugge LNG terminal with an installed capacity of 9.0 bln cbm/y . The map of the territorial distribution of the largest infrastructure electricity generation facilities in Belgium is shown in Figure 6. The share of fossil fuels in electricity generation in Belgium in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, was around 29.6% (Fig. 6).
Figure 6. Electricity production in Belgium
The country has a number of stations for the production of electricity from hydrocarbons, including 11 gas stations with a capacity of more than 300 MW and two nuclear plants with a capacity of more than 2,000 MW (Fig. 6). Belgian’s largest power plants are: the Seraing gas power plant, with a capacity of 485 MW ; and the Tihange nuclear power plant with three reactors, featuring a total installed capacity of 3,008 MW , generating 15% of the total national electricity output. Hydropower in Belgium has an insignificant share in electricity generation (0.1%), it is represented by two large pumped-storage plants and 115 small hydroelectric power stations, with a total capacity of 71.5 MW (Fig. 6). The largest pumped-storage plant is Coo-Trois-Ponts with an installed capacity of 1,164 MW .
Figure 7 shows the main infrastructure facilities in Belgium for the production of renewable energy.
Figure 7. Renewable energy in Belgium: solar, wind and hydrogen
As noted above, renewable energy in Belgium in 2017 accounted for 20.4% of electricity generation and the total production of electricity from renewable sources – excluding hydropower – was 16.46 TWh (Fig. 6). In zones of high wind activity, located in the north of the country, there are 10 large wind parks, with a capacity of more than 30 MW each. In 2017 there were about 1098 wind farms in Belgium, with a total installed capacity of 2 848 MW . The largest is the offshore Thornton Bank Wind Farm, with an installed capacity of 325 MW . As noted in the previous chapter, the level of global horizontal radiation in some parts of the country can reach 3.0 kWh/m2, which is sufficiently high for energy production . As a result, a large number of solar energy facilities are located in this territory, including 10 PV power plants that have a capacity of 1 MW. The largest PV park is Terra Nova, with an installed capacity of 15 MW, situated in an area of 20 hectares, which provides electricity to almost 4,000 families . Belgium, is actively engaged in the production and use of hydrogen as an energy source for vehicles. As of December 2017, there are three large hydrogen filling stations in operation in the country (Figure 7). There are several Compressed Hydrogen Plants, the largest of which is situated in Antwerp and is operated by Air Liquide, with an installed capacity of 208,500 Nm3/hr . Hydrogen fueling stations and hydrogen plants are connected via a network of hydrogen pipelines (Fig. 7).
Figure 8 shows the main bioenergy objects of Belgium for energy production.
In 2017 Belgium produced around 0.91 GW of electricity from bioenergy (Fig.8).
The country has biomass and municipal waste processing plants, torrefaction plants; biogas, biodiesel, bioethanol, and pellet production (Fig.8). In 2016, E.ON converted the largest Langerlo coal-fired power plant to a power plant that uses biomass as feedstock, with an installed capacity of 400 MW . Belgium is actively engaged in the production of bioethanol, with Wanze annually producing 300,000 m3 . The Ghent Steelanol cellulosic bioethanol production plant is under construction, and will have an installed capacity of 60 t/y . The main Belgian enterprises processing biomass are: Ghent Bioro, with an annual capacity of 250,000 tons of biodiesel ; Ruien biomass gasification plant with a capacity of 50 MWth ; and Burtonville-Vielsalm, which is capable of producing about 150,000 tons of pellets per year . The market leader in the generation of electricity from municipal waste is Neder-Over-Heembeek (Brussels) which is capable of processing 515,000 tons annually . The Amel torrefaction plant can produce about 38,000 tons of biocoal annually . Within the framework of the “Belgian National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy” the country seeks to reduce its share of CO2 emissions, diversify energy supply and limit energy demand, particularly by increasing the capacity of renewable technologies and to increase cooperation and trade with neighboring countries .
In June 2017, the governments of the leading markets of offshore wind energy – Germany, Belgium and Denmark – announced their intentions in their negotiations with the largest producers to increase the capacities of this energy sector to 4 GW per year by 2020 . In 2017, Siemens and Senvion received contracts for the construction of new wind power facilities with a total capacity of 28.8 MW and 45 MW, respectively [36,37]. Research centers at the universities of Antwerp and Leuven have developed a technology that cleans the air while simultaneously generating energy. The air is purified, and hydrogen is produced from a part of degradation products. This hydrogen can be stored and later used as fuel . The Flemish Institute for Technology Studies (VITO) has for many years studied the potential of deep geothermal energy in Belgium and in 2018 ENGIE Fabricom will begin construction of the country's first geothermal power plant. This plant will have a potential capacity of 4 MW and could become one of the ten largest plants of deep geothermal energy in Europe .
One of the leading solar energy companies – Solar Century – together with the zinc plant, NystarBudel, is developing a solar park with an area of 60 hectares in Budela in Brabant. The solar park, to be equipped with 170,000 solar panels will be built in 2018, and will be able to provide electricity to 16,000 families .
The set of indices reflecting the position of Belgium among other countries in the field of education and innovation can be seen in Figure 9. As can be seen from the diagram presented, Belgium has a very high level of academic achievement. Belgium ranks 25th out of 126 countries considered in the ranking of countries of the Global Innovation Index 2018 (see diagram).
1. The Global Innovation Index 2018, Rankings/Knowledge/World Intellectual Property Organization/Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO (2018): Energizing the World with Innovation.
Ithaca, Fontainebleau, and Geneva *126
2. Patent Grants 2007-2016, resident & abroad / Statistical country profiles / World Intellectual Property Organization / www.wipo.int/portal/en/ *175
3. Patents in Force 2016 / Statistical country profiles / World Intellectual Property Organization / www.wipo.int/portal/en/ *89
4. QS World University Rankings 2018 /www.topuniversities.com *84
5. SCImago Country Rankings (1996-2017)/Country rankings/SCImago, (n.d.). SJR—SCImago Journal & Country Rank [Portal]. Retrieved Aug 2018, from www.scimagojr.com *239
6. Internet users in 2016/The World Factbook/Library/Central Intelligence Agency *224
7. Internet users in 2016 (% Population); Internet users in 2016 - The World Factbook/Library/Central Intelligence Agency; Population - World Population Prospects/United Nations,
Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017), World Population Prospect: The 2017 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No.
8. Government expenditure on education, total (% of GDP), 2016/United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics.
License: CC BY-4.0/Data/The World Bank *169
9. Research and development expenditure (% of GDP), 2015 / UNESCO Institute for Statistics. License: CC BY-4.0/Data/The World Bank *120
10. Scientific and technical journal articles, 2016 / National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators. License: CC BY-4.0/Data/The World Bank *196
* Total number of countries participating in ranking
|Figure 9. The indices of education and innovation in Belgium|
According to the number of patents granted to Belgian nationals, both domestically and abroad, the country ranks 16th in the world. Similarly, by the number of valid patents issued, the country places 17th in the world, indicating the country's favorable conditions for innovation.
In terms of government expenditure on education as a percentage of the country's GDP, the country ranks higher than the world average – 26th out of 169 countries selected for consideration. Consequently, 8 Belgian universities are included in the rating of the world’s leading universities - “QS University Rating”. It is also worth noting that the country's GDP is high, therefore in absolute terms the level of government expenditure on education is considerable. In terms of public expenditure on research and development as a percentage of GDP, Belgium is 15th, and is well positioned when considering the number of publications of specialists in scientific and technological journals and patent activities. Belgium is 21st out of 239 participating countries in the Scimago ranking, and in Scientific and Journal Activities is ranked 22nd out of 196 countries, behind a number of European countries, including France and Italy.
Belgian Universities, such as Vrije Universiteit Brussel, KU Leuven, Ghent University, the University of Antwerp, the University of Mons, and the University of Liege train specialists in various ﬁelds of energy, including Electrical Engineering, Electromechanical Engineering etc. In the field of synthetic fuel production, the leader in patenting among Belgian companies is Total Research and Technology Feluy. Research and development in this field is carried out by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the University of Ghent, University of Antwerp. The University of Ghent is the leader in the number of publications in the field of gas hydrates. Sofitech N.V. is the absolute leader in the number of inventions in the field of gas hydrates and hydrocarbon production from reservoirs with low permeability. Vrije Universiteit Brussel is conducting research in this area. Sofitech N.V. and Magotteaux International S.A. lead in the number of patents in the field of non-traditional oil production. Solvay leads in the number of publications. In the area of Coal Seam Methane Sofitech N.V. has the largest number of patents, and Epslog S.A. has the largest number of publications.
The leading patent holders in the field of bioenergy are Organic Waste Systems, Albemarle Europe SPRL, Greenwatt. The University of Ghent, AEBIOM and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven are conducting research in this area. A large number of Belgian companies patent technical solutions in the field of energy production from renewable sources. In the field of solar energy are Cockerill Maintenance & Ingenierie S.A., AGC Glass Europe S.A., and AGC Flat Glass S.A. Leading research organizations in this field are Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Universite de Liege, and ESTIF.
ZF Wind Power Antwerpen N.V., Hansen Transmissions International N.V., High Wind N.V. are leading patent holders in the in the field of wind power; research in this field is being conducted by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the University of Ghent.
1. CO2 total emission by countries 2016 / European Commission/Joint Research Centre (JRC) / Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) *208
2. CO2 per capita emission 2016/European Commission/Joint Research Centre (JRC)/Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) *208
3. Forest area 2015 (% of land area)/The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015/Forestry Statistics/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations *234
4. Forest area change 2010-2015 (ha/year)/The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015/Forestry Statistics/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations *234
5. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2018, Rankings/Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy/Yale University*180
6. The Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI) 2005/South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), United National Environment Programme (UNEP) *234
7. The National Footprint Accounts 2018 edition (Data Year 2014) (Biocapacity Reserve/Deficit)/building on World Development Indicators, The World Bank (2016); U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organization/Open Data Platform /Tools and Resources/Global Footprint Network *188
8. Methane emissions (kt of CO2 equivalent), 2012/European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)/Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).
Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR).License: CC BY-4.0/Data/The World Bank *203
9. The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2018, Overall Results/Jan Burck, Franziska Marten, Christoph Bals, NiklasHöhne/Germanwatch,Climate Action Network International,
New Climate Institute/https://germanwatch.org/en *56
* Total number of countries participating in ranking
|Figure 10. Environmental Indices of Belgium|
However, according to the Environmental Vulnerability Index, which is based on years of observations and 50 indicators that include, for example, changing climatic characteristics or the quality of water resources, waste volumes, oil spills and other hazardous substances, etc. Belgium is 218th out of 234 countries, and is characterized as "extremely vulnerable". The overall picture is aggravated by the Ecological Footprint Atlas rating, according to which Belgium is among a number of ecological debtors.
Detailed information about the energy industry in Belgium is available here.
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 Agricultural land (% of land area) / Food and Agriculture Organization, electronic files and web site. License: CC BY-4.0 / Data / The World Bank / www.worldbank.org
 Forest area (% of land area) /Food and Agriculture Organization, electronic files and web site. License: CC BY-4.0 / Data / The World Bank / www.worldbank.org
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 Thorntonbank Wind Farm / Wikipedia / en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorntonbank_Wind_Farm /
 Terranova Solar Is The Largest Solar Park In The Low Countries (PDF) / Deme / www.demegroup.com
 Major Compressed Hydrogen Plants over 1000 Nm3/hr / Merchant Hydrogen Production Capacities in Europe / Hydrogen Tools / h2tools.org
 Belgium and Coal / Source Watch / www.sourcewatch.org
 Large Industrial Users of Energy Biomass / IEA Bioenergy Task 40 / bioenergytrade.org
 ArcelorMittal – Project Ghent Steelanol / IEA Bioenergy Task 39: Commercializing Liquid Biofuels from Biomass / demoplants.bioenergy2020.eu
 Bioro / Flanders Biobased Valley / www.fbbv.be
Pellets / Industrie du Bois Vielsalm&Cie S.A. / www.ibv-cie.be
Brussels incineration plant / Industry About / www.industryabout.com
 Still more future hope than reality / Google / www.sunwindenergy.com
 Belgian National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy / Climat.be / www.climat.be
 Leading Energy Ministers and industry captains join forces for significant offshore wind volumes in Europe by 2030 / Wind Europe / windeurope.org
 Siemens awarded wind turbine order from EDF Luminus for two projects in Belgium (PDF) / Siemens / www.siemens.com
 Senvion concludes five orders in Belgium totaling 45 megawatts / Windfair / w3.windfair.net
 New technology generates power and hydrogen from polluted air / Fuel Cells Works / fuelcellsworks.com
 Belgium’s first deep geothermal power plant / Engie / www.engie.be
 Solarcentury en Nyrstar bouwen zonnepark van 170.000 zonnepanelen / 09/10/2017 / Metalot / www.metalot.nl
The sources of charts and curves are specified under the images.