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What is the energy transition?

Last updated on 25 February 2020

The energy transition is the evolution of our old ways of producing and consuming energy towards a new system that is more in line with today's reality. A system that is:

  • less dependent on fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas);
  • with more renewable energy (wind, solar, etc.), green gas …);
  • more energy-efficient, with less waste;
  • more flexible (capable of adapting to renewable production, which varies according to weather conditions for example);
  • more decentralised (a multitude of production units scattered over the country rather than a few central points);
  • based on new technologies, particularly digital technologies;
  • with better security of supply for countries, such as Belgium, which depend to a large extent on energy produced abroad;
  • etc.

Why are we experiencing an energy transition?

Since the industrial revolution, the way we produce and consume energy has changed a lot.

Fossil energy (oil, coal, etc.) used to be the only energy that kept our factories and meters running. The limited nature of these resources and awareness of their ecological impact has given a boost to the development of renewable energies.

At the same time, the way we consume energy has also changed. We are consuming more electricity, throughout the day. Since the industrial revolution, the number of inhabitants has increased sevenfold, as has the average per capita energy consumption.

Some of us have installed solar panels on our roofs to meet part of our needs, making us prosumers (consumers and producers). Others drive in 100% electric vehicles  which they charge at home.

Our energy networks were not designed to meet these new uses and challenges. Hence the need for change.

Who is in charge of the energy transition? 

The energy sector

The energy sector is at the forefront of the many challenges posed by the energy transition.

For example, electricity transmission and distribution networks need to be adapted. Managing the balance between electricity consumption and production is becoming more complicated. To address this problem, smart grids in particular must be put in place. 

The authorities

Authorities at all levels of government have made commitments on energy and climate change. These include: the Paris Agreements, the European Climate and Energy 2030 Action Framework, the National Energy-Climate Plan, etc.

The energy transition is the cornerstone of these commitments. After all, it directly affects the objectives of reducing greenhouse gases, increasing energy efficiency and increasing the production of renewable energy.

We, the consumers!

The energy transition also concerns each and every one of us! To reap the benefits of a more sustainable, flexible and reliable energy system, the consumer (private or professional) will have to play an active role. How?

  • By adapting its consumption according to the amount of energy available on the network, thanks to the information transmitted by smart meters ;
  • By participating in the flexibility market ;
  • By giving priority to the consumption of locally produced energy, for example via collective self-consumption ;
  • By taking action to avoid wasting energy, in particular by taking energy efficiency measures or by replacing our equipment with more efficient models ;
  • etc.

The energy transition, with or without nuclear power?

That is a matter for debate. Depending on the country, the region and the person you are talking to, there are different opinions on what energies should be promoted for this energy transition.

For some, the energy transition implies the abandonment of fossil fuels and nuclear power in favour of renewable energies. For others, on the contrary, nuclear energy is indispensable for the energy transition.

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