Country profile - (Belgium)
Industry in Belgium has changed profoundly since 1960 and its weight in the economy has declined.
Industry in Belgium has changed profoundly since 1960 and its weight in the economy has declined. The metallurgy sector, constituted mainly of large companies situated in the heart of the former industrial areas of Wallonia, has undergone considerable restructuring as a result of the crisis that began in the sector in the 1970s.
The textile sector, which has also had to cope with major difficulties during the same period, has tended to merge its activities. In contrast, the agri-foods industry has evolved into Belgium's third largest industrial sector. Chemicals account for one-fifth of the turnover of Belgian industries; Belgium ranks tenth worldwide in this sector. The automotive industry in Belgium is limited to assembly, which takes place mostly in large plants owned by multinationals. Railway construction and the highly technological aviation sector also have a strong presence in Belgium.
Agriculture is still an important economic sector putting only a limited number of active population to work.
Belgian agriculture is specialised in market garden and horticultural crops, cereals, potatoes, sugar beets, livestock and milk production. Fishing has relatively limited importance in the economy. Although agricultural land in use has remained relatively stable, the number of farms and the active population in this sector have continued to decline significantly in recent years, continuing a trend underway since World War II. The active population in agriculture and fisheries currently represents less than 1 % of the population. Despite this decline, agriculture and fisheries are still important economic sectors.
Transport is a constantly growing sector due to Belgium's geographical position as a country of transit, with an economy geared largely to export.
Transport is a constantly growing sector due to Belgium's geographical position as a country of transit, with an economy geared largely to export. This growth particularly concerns road and air transport. The number of passenger cars has risen spectacularly (motorisation rate in Belgium: one car for every two inhabitants). Growth is even higher for goods transport vehicles. Demand for fossil energy in the sector is expected to continue to rise. The development of new technologies to improve vehicle energy efficiency is slow which has a negative impact on emissions of air pollutants in the sector. Road is by far the main mode of transport in Belgium, both for passengers and goods.
Primary energy intensity has declined in Belgium since 1998, reflecting the uncoupling of economic growth and primary energy consumption.
On the whole, primary energy intensity has declined in Belgium since 1998, reflecting the uncoupling of economic growth and primary energy consumption. Buildings constitute the leading end-consumer of energy (31 % of final energy in 2007), followed by industry (30 %), one-third of which for iron and steel, and transport (23 %).
Total final energy consumption decreased at a yearly rate of 0,9 % between 2000 and 2007. Final consumption of iron and steel has continued a downward trend since 1979.
Petroleum (including petroleum products) remains the dominant source of energy (39,2 % in 2007), followed by natural gas (25,4 %), nuclear energy (21,4 %), solid fuels (7,8 %) and renewable fuels (5 %). The remaining 1,2 % are other sources used primarily to generate electricity. Petroleum covers primarily the needs of the transport and residential sectors as well as non-energy uses (feed stocks). Electricity and natural gas, on the other hand, play a major role in industry and the residential sector, while the use of solid fuels is mainly confined to the iron and steel industry.
Nuclear plants generate 54 % (2007) of electricity and classic thermal power stations 39 %; pumping power stations, hydraulic energy and renewable energy generate the remaining 7 %. The share of liquid fuels in electricity generation is declining.
Renewable energy constitutes a very small share of primary energy generation (5 % in 2007), notably due to the relatively low potential for this type of energy in Belgium (small territory and limited availability of hydraulic, geothermal and solar resources). Eventually, renewable energy, which is being developed intensely, is nevertheless expected to constitute a substantial share of primary energy generation. Wind energy in particular is being developed through numerous projects. Regarding the production of electricity, the electricity generated from renewable resources currently (2007) represents 5,4 % of primary electricity generation.