VREG gives green light for Energy Investment Plan 2023-2032

Important step in preparing electricity grid for tomorrow's society

The Flemish energy regulator VREG announced on Friday 31 March its approval of Fluvius' 2023-2032 investment plan. The grid company had already presented the plan in June last year, but it is up to the regulator to formally approve such an investment plan. For the next edition of the Investment Plan, VREG asks for further clarification on a number of issues, including the concrete impact of digitisation on grid management and a clearer timing for the roll-out of the 400V grids.

In its Investment Plan 2023-2032, Fluvius foresees EUR 4 billion of additional investments in the electricity distribution networks, on top of the EUR 7 billion already planned. The additional funds are needed to provide adjustments, extensions and reinforcements to 30.000 kilometres of low-voltage grid, 6.000 kilometres of medium-voltage grid and 22.450 distribution cabins. The plan is necessary to best prepare the distribution grid for the energy transition and the increasing electrification of our mobility, heating, industry and the further growth of renewable energy via solar panels and wind turbines, among others. The Investment Plan sets out the criteria used by Fluvius to arrive at these numbers and calculations.

Whereas the Investment Plan foresees increasing funds for electricity distribution, those for gas distribution will halve over the next 10 years to around EUR 88 million per year, according to Fluvius' calculations. As a result of previous policy decisions, little to no future expansion of the gas network is foreseen. It is important, however, that users of the gas grid can continue to rely on a safe and reliable network at all times, and that research and pilot projects into the role of green gases are deployed.

More focus on digitisation, 400V grids and coordination with transmission system operator

In approving the Investment Plan 2023-2032, VREG already set out a number of conditions for the 2024-2033 version. For instance, that next version should pay more attention to the objectives of digitisation of the distribution network and the impact of flexibility. The next version should also provide more detail on how the expected additional load on the low-voltage grid will be 'spread' to determine the future grid load, and provide a clearer time frame within which all users will have access to a 400V grid. Closer coordination with transmission system operator Elia's plans is also needed. Fluvius will effectively include these conditions in the 2024-2033 edition.

CEO Frank Vanbrabant: 'Happy with this move'

Frank Vanbrabant, Fluvius' CEO, welcomed the conditional approval of the Investment Plan by VREG:

"This is a very important step. With this green light from the regulator, we can now fully embark on the energy transition as a distribution system operator. We will now start all further steps related to the Investment Plan: hiring additional technicians and contractors to implement the plan, consulting with the authorities and partners about concrete technical projects and the further financing of the plan. In any case, close cooperation with all stakeholders will be and will remain crucial in the upcoming years: governments, regulators, companies, the construction industry, material suppliers and the entire labour market are all closely involved to make the plan a success.”

According to applicable rules, Fluvius has to update the Investment Plan every year and resubmit it to its stakeholders and the wider community. So, in close consultation with a lot of partners, the 2024-2033 edition of the Investment Plan is already being prepared at the moment. This plan will be presented in the first half of June 2023, after which a consultation and validation process will start, as it did last year. In this way, the impact of the energy transition on the Flemish distribution networks can be properly monitored, and the plan can be adjusted and refined annually.