Thousands of low-income households in Belgium to receive energy bill relief via solar power

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Solar panels are installed on a social housing estate in Temse, Belgium.

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Thousands of social housing units in the Belgian region of Flanders are set to receive much-needed energy bill relief through the installation of solar panels on their rooftops.

The project, to be carried out by a cooperative company called Aster, will see over €150 million spent on 400,000 solar panels for low-income households in Flanders.

With many people staring down an energy crisis this winter, the plans could not come at a better time.

“We are definitely in an energy crisis and people are afraid,” Sven Van Elst, Aster General manager told Euronews.

“They don’t know whether they will have the means to pay for the heating this winter. They don’t know whether they will be able to put on the lights when their children have to do their homework this winter. So as a social housing sector, we must absolutely do something about it.”

Tenants will soon benefit from lower electricity bills, due to the fact that they will be generating their own green energy from the sun.

“When our social tenants need energy and they start using energy when the sun is shining, they will benefit from it because the Flemish government will decide on the tariffs they have to pay for this solar energy, but they are assured that these tariffs will always be lower than the social tariffs and the commercial tariffs,” Van Elst added.

“And on the other hand, there is, of course, also an ecological impact when we produce energy, green solar energy, all people will benefit from it.”

With the help of the European Investment Bank, Aster, which is made up of 62 Flemish cooperative companies, aims to provide up to 50,000 social housing units in Flanders with their own solar panels, in what will be the largest solar panel project in the region.

In the town of Temse, where the project has already started, one tenant told Euronews that he is concerned by the energy crisis, but that the solar panels are expected, to some degree, to help alleviate financial difficulties related to bills.

“In the news, you hear a lot about the rising energy costs, so I think that’s definitely something we are worried about…I think it’s [solar panels] definitely going to help a bit though,” the social housing tenant explained.

But Adel El Gammal, secretary-general of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) in Brussels, says that more needs to be invested in renewable energy projects if the EU is to meet its target of reducing carbon emissions by 55% by 2030.

“We have decreased investment in fossil fuel infrastructure over the last year, which was a very good thing for the transition. But on the other hand, we didn’t invest to the level expected to speed up the deployment of renewables at least fast enough,” El Gammal told Euronews.

He added, however, that while the war in Ukraine has resulted in renewable projects speeding up, it is also seeing the use of carbon-emitting fossil fuels increase.

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