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Powering into a sustainable future


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The electricity network supplying power to residents and businesses in the city of Brussels alone covers nearly 6,500 km of cable. Sibelga is responsible for ensuring that every metre of this network is properly maintained. The company is also responsible for the gas distribution network and street lighting in the city. “Our primary mission is the service and maintenance of the infrastructure,” explains CEO Marie-Pierre Fauconnier. “Put simply, we ensure that the lights turn on when needed.”

However, Sibelga is far from being simply a passive service provider. It also sees itself as a vector for the intelligent implementation of the transition to sustainable sources of energy provision. “The energy transition is in full swing throughout Europe,” adds Ms. Fauconnier. “We increasingly see our role in advising public bodies with a stake in this transition on the best way to achieve it.”

Sibelga is highly qualified to fulfil this role through its unique insights into consumer demand. It obtains these through access to electricity and gas meters. “Part of our work is reading customer meters so that they can be invoiced for the electricity used,” explains Ms. Fauconnier. “We are using this information to identify hotspots where demand is rising and where we can make the network more efficient.”

The shift from centralized power generation to devolved micro-generation is presenting the company with new challenges, as is the shift to battery-operated mobility. “We are closely involved in the local energy transition,” notes Ms. Fauconnier. “While offshoring energy production through the construction of wind farms out at sea is certainly an important part of the larger picture, there is a lot that can be done at a more local level.”

In fact, many private households have taken advantage of incentives such as feed-in tariffs for solar power to take their own steps towards energy independence. Ms. Fauconnier describes consumption of self-generated energy as one of its most important tasks. “We are looking at the potential of using space on public buildings such as schools for the same purpose,” she says. “However, schools are of course closed during holidays and at weekends so that consumption drops significantly at those times. Our job is to create a micro-network using this excess capacity to supply neighbouring consumers. We are already piloting two projects and others are being lined up.” As the technology becomes more refined, batteries are another option that is being explored in this context.

Our primary mission is the service and maintenance of the infrastructure needed to supply gas and electricity throughout the Brussels metropolitan area. Marie-Pierre FauconnierCEO
Sibelga CEO Marie-Pierre Fauconnier

Clearly, micro-generation is having a significant impact on infrastructure managers like Sibelga. “The supply of power is becoming more fragmented as access points increase,” confirms Ms. Fauconnier. “On the other hand, consumption habits are also changing and the points at which consumers access the electricity supply are also increasing in number.”

E-mobility is one of the big drivers of these changes. “We are looking into how micro-networks can be used to manage demand in this area,” explains Ms. Fauconnier. “Here, smart technologies can be a major advantage. For example smart meters are being installed where renewable energy is generated. Micro-networks can only work when it is possible to share the power intelligently.”

Sibelga’s work with renewables and micro-networks affords a glimpse into a cleaner future. Air pollution from vehicle traffic and the burning of fossil fuels is one of the key factors lowering quality of life in towns and cities. Through its sustainable initiatives, Sibelga is playing its part in ushering in a better future. “Politicians and local government have taken the decisions but we are the ones on the ground with responsibility for their implementation,” says Ms. Fauconnier. “It is vital that we push through changes now. Future generations will be grateful for it.”

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