Belgium, aside from being one-third of the BENELUX region, is known for their increased commitment to clean technologies. Numerous businesses and initiatives are starting to take shape along the ideologies associated with cleantech in the country and Belgium is exporting those initiatives and businesses throughout the entire European Union and internationally. The Flanders region of Belgium, especially, is taking bold strides to being placed as a frontrunner on the list of cleantech innovation as well as transitioning to a sustainable environment. Belgium is known for allocating large funds to high impact cleantech projects, expanding international cooperation, stimulating societal change, and improving overall access to capital.
1) A Plan for Renewables and a Holistic Vision towards a Sustainable Society. Belgium has created their own action plan when it comes to renewable energy. In a pledge to the European Commission, Belgium declared that by the year 2020, a minimum of 13 percent of all energy consumption will be from renewable energy sources. As dictated under the Belgium Plan, there are a number of steps listed in an effort to achieve this goal, which includes using green energy for heating at 11.9 percent and that 30 percent of all electricity will be from solar, wind, and hydroelectric sources. 10 percent of all vehicles will use electricity and biofuels to run. Cities in Belgium are also coming up with their own goals. Flanders, for example, has their own plan of action to transform into a sustainable society. The Flanders Cleantech Association has been very helpful in creating a cleantech identity within the international community and provides the necessary platform to connect with cleantech clusters around the world.
2) Advanced Waste and Waste Water Management. Belgium has always been seen as an example of a country utilizing integrated waste management systems due to curbside collection, magnetic extraction, and container parks. Roughly one percent of communal and industrial waste is being sent to a landfill. Their SITEL sorting center is highly utilized. Aside from this, a number of new and innovative projects are in various stages of being complete. For example, there is the “Closing the Circle” project which deals with enhanced landfill mining. In the next 20 years, the work of this project should provide energy to 200,000 families. As well, Recmix created a CCS-system, combining carbon dioxide with waste ashes to create new building material.
3) Onshore and Offshore Wind Capacity. Belgium is currently in the process of building up their skills and innovative solutions when it comes to wind power, on and offshore. Along the port of Ostend designs are currently underway for a number of renewable energy projects. A number of companies are currently involved in offshore wind park projects, including C-Power and ElectraWinds.
4) Photovoltaic. The photovoltaic industry in Belgium is highly developed and houses some of the most well-known photovoltaic companies, including Umicore, PhotoVoltec, HeliosElec, Enfinity, and Linea Trovata Suntec. PhotoVoltec, for example, focuses on increasing the utilization of photovoltaic cells in offices and homes. HeliosElec works to make photovoltaic energy a popular, viable form of electricity. As of 2010, they also sell domestic turbines as well. Helioselec ensures that all products are affordable for anyone who wants sustained energy consumption from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels.
5) Energy Efficient Cities and Smart Grids. A number of projects are underway in Belgium to increase the efficiency of cities and the creating of smart grids throughout the country. For example, Tweewaters is the first 100 neighborhood to have 100 percent of their heating run by renewable energy. In Flanders, Belgium, the goal is to have smart grids implemented throughout the city by the year 2020, starting with just 30 buildings in a linear smart grids field test.
6) A Biobased Economy. It was estimated that in 2009, the chemical and life science industry counted for 17.4 percent of all employment. As a main industrial sector, a lot of interest has gone into the research and development of biochemical’s and biofuels. Proviron is erecting their pilot plant that will be used to grow algae from waste gases and be used as base materials for chemical substances productions. SBAE Industries is a leading biotechnology companies in the country that is involved in the industrial production of microalgae. Other companies, including Futerro, Ecover, and Biowanze are also involved in the biobased industry.
7) C2C and he Environmental and Energy Technology Innovation Platform. Established in 2005, the Environmental and Energy Technology Innovation Platform (MIP) is fund of 5mEUR in order to stimulate companies located in Flanders to invest in new products, services, and processes that decrease negative environmental impact, with special focuses on Cradle to Cradle and smart energy projects[b1] [b1] The Flemish Public Waste Agency is a partner of the European Cradle to Cradle Network (C2CN), this network brings together ten EU regions to share and capitalize on regional good practices in implementing C2C principles in relation to waste prevention and ecological materials management. This fits into the EU Europe2020 strategy and strategies on waste and resource efficiency to make Europe a recycling society.
8 ) Cleantech Institutions Located in Belgium. There are a number of European cleantech institutions with their primary headquarters in Belgium. The European Wind Energy Association promotes European and international utilization of wind energy. The members of EWEA make up more than 95 percent of the global wind power market, including developers, research institutions, and component suppliers. The European Renewable Energy Council was established in 2000 and is the voice of the European renewable energy industry, including solar thermal, photovoltaic, bioenergy, hydropower, wind, and geothermal energy. Lastly, there is the European Forum of Renewable Energy Sources, which, founded in 1996, aims to promote the utilization of renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency throughout the European Union. EUFORES supports renewable energy development as a way to increase sustainable development.
9) Transportation Advancements. Belgium has been streaming forward with electric vehicles, fuel cell systems, and various storage solutions. Bluways, a company founded in 2009 and provides customers with integrated hybrid drive systems that offer unprecedented reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, elevated fuel economy, as well as quieter systems. Bluways was responsible for the fuel bus technology at the Winter Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia and the London-based CHIC project.
10) Funding for Cleantech Projects. Belgium is home to a number of venture capital firms, such as Capital-E and GIMV that invest money into technologies presented by entrepreneurs. A lot of the funding, in recent times have been going to clean technologies. For example, Capricorn Cleantech Fund is a Belgium-based venture capital company that has invested in a large number of companies that have been operating in a number of clean technology sectors, including renewable energy, water purification, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, bio-refineries, biobased chemicals, and clean soil.
Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org