A number of changes have been brought in since 1 January 2020, causing great confusion among owners of photovoltaic panels. The end of the compensation scheme is now effective in the Brussels Region for the consumption/feed-in of self-produced energy. In parallel, the number of green certificates granted to prosumers is expected to fall. The same can be seen in Wallonia where the prosumer tariff came into force on 1 October 2020, despite an attempt by the Walloon government to postpone this measure until 2025. Flanders, meanwhile, is planning a gradual exit.

Until now, the compensation scheme has been one of the incentives implemented in Belgium to encourage households to fit photovoltaic panels. Under this scheme, the solar electricity fed into the network is deducted from the electricity bill, in terms of both electricity purchased and network usage costs.

The “Electricity market design” European Directive, adopted in June 2019, encourages Member States to abandon this compensation scheme by 2023. The objective is to ensure that all consumers contribute to the network costs equally, regardless of whether they have solar panels. This withdrawal from the compensation scheme will begin in Belgium in 2020. However, the measures vary from region to region.

Brussels: end of the compensation scheme and reduction in green certificates

The end of the compensation scheme

The Brussels regulator has ended the principle of the “meter that runs backwards” (also called the compensation scheme) with effect from 1 January 2020. The Brussels Region is the first to implement this withdrawal.

Prosumers in the capital are already required to fit a dual meter. This facilitates the implementation of this new measure. Brussels households can already see on their meters the actual quantities of electricity drawn from the network.

As a result, owners of small photovoltaic installations (less than 5 kWc) will no longer only pay network costs on the difference between the kWh they have drawn from the network and the kWh they have fed in. They will pay network costs on all the kWh actually drawn from the network. The compensation also remains applicable for the energy portion, the so-called “commodity” portion. For installations with a capacity exceeding 5 kWc, which do not currently enjoy any compensation, there will be no change.

A reduction in the number of green certificates

During 2020, the number of green certificates allocated to new photovoltaic installations in Brussels will be scaled back. As a reminder, a green certificate is “an intangible title that has a financial value only when it is sold” (source: CWaPE). For installations fitted previously, there will be no retroactive effect.

In practice, small installations of less than 6 kWc will receive 17 % fewer green certificates. Large installations will see a reduction of 13% to 42% in the number of green certificates received, depending on the size of the installation. Nevertheless, the promise remains the same: a return on investment within 7 years This reduction in the number of green certificates granted can be attributed to the fall in the price of photovoltaic installations. According to Brugel, the cost of a 3 kWc installation fell from 8,100 euro in 2012 to 4,800 euro in 2018.

Moreover, this reduction in the number of green certificates granted is designed to prevent an economic bubble

“If a scheme is too lucrative, there could be an explosion of roof installations, leading to a proliferation of green certificates. In the end, people would no longer be able to sell their green certificates as there would be too many on the market.”

Adeline Moerenhout, Brugel spokesperson

Flanders: a gradual exit

The VREG [Flemish energy market authority] established the prosumer tariff in Flanders at the end of 2014. However, change is in the air for 2020. This tariff may eventually be abolished.

For households that have installed photovoltaic panels before 2021, it is already possible to install a smart meter. This installation is available on request or as part of a meter replacement programme scheduled by the DNO [Distribution Network Operator].

Once the prosumer has installed the smart meter, they will have two options:

  • Either retain the annual compensation scheme while continuing to pay a fixed prosumer tariff.
  • Or opt for a reduced tariff based on actual usage. The prosumer will receive compensation for the energy they feed into the network. The annual compensation for the “commodity” portion when purchasing electricity will be maintained.

Prosumers will have this choice only for the first 15 years. Thereafter, the compensation scheme will be withdrawn. For example, let’s assume you have owned a photovoltaic installation for 5 years. With this regulation, you would be able to remain in this scheme for 10 years.

Tip

No need to wait 15 years before changing to the new system. You can choose to make the switch at any time. However, please note that it is irreversible. This decision will be beneficial if:

  • you are often at home during the day;
  • you self-consume the electricity that is produced.

For households that will install photovoltaic panels after 1 January 2021, the new tariff, based on actual use, will apply automatically.

Wallonia: “Prosumer tariff” postponed

In September 2019, the new Government in Wallonia wanted to postpone the “prosumer tariff” until 2025, in other words, a 5-year reprieve from the initial date (1 January 2020). Nevertheless, the CWaPE, which is the body responsible for setting energy prices in Wallonia, confirmed that this would not be the case. Both parties got entangled in political confrontations until May 1st 2020. It was the agreed deadline to find a suitable compromise.

On the eve of that deadline, at the eleventh hour, the Government published an agreement stating that it would be implementing various “accompanying measures. One of these would be compensation to prosumers for feed-in electricity over a period of 5 years. On its side, the CWaPE has agreed to a further postponement until 1 October 2020 for the application of the fee.

How can I find out more about the end of the compensation scheme?

Faced with these new regulations, it is important to review how you consume electricity. To keep control over your electricity bill, make sure you draw as little electricity as possible from the network. To do this:

  • Reduce your excess consumption as much as possible
  • Schedule your energy-consuming appliances (dishwasher, tumble dryer, etc.) to run during the day
  • Invest in a home battery
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