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Manifesto The de-industrialization of Europe There’s no more time to lose!

Belgium Academies (ARB)
2010

This report was compiled by a group of members of the “Technology & Society” section of the “Académie royale de Belgique” to express their alarm at the decline of industrial activity in numerous European countries as well as the social consequences of it.
The de-industrialization of Europe is not impacting all countries to the same extent. The loss of traditional industries is sometimes partially offset by the creation of new industries through this too varies from one country to country and indeed from one region to another. Overall in Europe, however, the reality of the phenomenon is undeniable.
In order to curb the de-industrialization of Europe, the report lists several recommendations to be urgently considered and implemented.

Belgian Research in the European Context

Belgium Academies (ARB)
2009

This report on the state of Belgian research in the European context is the result of an initiative of BACAS, the Belgian Royal Academy Council for Applied Science. It is aimed at providing elements of reflection in the area of science and research policy for the 2010 Belgian Presidency of the European Union. The report is based on both a quantitative assessment of Belgian research from international statistics and a qualitative evaluation obtained from responses to a questionnaire sent to individuals and organisations, public and private, involved in the planning, management and/or execution of research in Belgium. As shown by various performance indicators, the Belgian R&D system occupies an honourable place in the European context, in terms of expenditures per unit GDP, number of researchers and doctoral graduates per 1000 employees, scientific publications, number of applications for patents and overall innovation performance, as well as participation in European programmes. On the negative side is the slowdown in growth of research funding, even before the current economic crisis.
The Lisbon/Barcelona target of 3% of GNP for 2010 will be missed by a wide margin, as it was only 1.83% in 2006. The main strengths of the R&D system, as seen through the replies to the questionnaire, are considered to be, first, the internationally recognised high quality of university education and research, and of other public and private research, second, the various initiatives at federal and regional levels to support fundamental and applied research, third, the fiscal measures to stimulate employment of researchers.
Weaknesses are the under-funding of public research and higher education, the “atomisation” resulting from the complexity of structures and decision making at the various political levels, the dearth of permanent research positions, the insufficient mobility of researchers, the fact that much of private research is done in foreign-owned companies, the unsatisfactory state of large scientific infrastructures. The assessment leads to recommendations concerning public and private research funding, improved coordination between the different levels of government, increasing the attractiveness of research careers, as well as reducing the administrative load in the EU programmes and the reinforcement of the European Research Area.

 

Interaction between high school education and private enterprise

Belgium Academies (ARB)
2009

There is a gap between what students are taught in secondary schools and what the business world demands. The first part of this paper looks at the problem itself. There are several reasons why this gap exists, despite the high quality of our educational system. In the second part we look at the somewhat difficult relationship between the business world and the educational system. The business world is extremely heterogeneous and changes rather rapidly, while the educational system tends to be rather sluggish and is not able to respond immediately to all needs of the business world. The third part deals with the information given to our youth about technology, the possibilities of a career in the business world, and what obstacles remain in deciding to choose a job in the business world. In the fourth and last part suggestions are put forward for changing the organisation and structure of our educational system. Changes however must also be carried by society, including: parents, the business world, administration, youth movements and sports clubs. An all round education is certainly not the responsibility of the school only.

 

Stimulating innovation

Belgium Academies (ARB)
2009

Innovation is now generally considered as an important prerequisite for a prosperous and expanding economy. As a consequence, any government anxious to boost the economic growth in its region should consider innovation as a priority. International comparative studies have repeatedly shown that, with regard to innovation, Flanders is lagging behind its neighbours despite the considerable financial means which are being spent to invigorate the innovation process. CAWET has followed with profound interest the innovation performance of the Flemish industry, and has regularly published its findings and recommendations (the last report was published in April 2001). In the present report an evaluation is made of the current innovation policy and the impact of the engaged financial means. Indeed, on the one hand injecting huge amounts of money in the economy is by no means a guarantee for a strong development of innovation. On the other hand, though, it is encouraging that progress has undoubtedly been made: innovation is now generally considered important and the government has given a high priority to innovation incentives.

 

Energy efficient buildings

Belgium Academies (ARB)
2010

In the industrialized world, residential housing and equivalents consume up to 40% of the annual total end energy use. The major part in cool and cold climates goes to heating, though in terms of percentage the share of domestic hot water, lighting, function and cooling increases when the heating needs diminish as a result of higher energy efficiency. By goal-oriented design – compact, smart glass use, very well insulated, airtight - buildings now allow important savings in heating without jeopardizing usability. Since 1973 energetically better construction has evolved from “insulated” over “energy efficient” to “low energy” and, recently, “passive quality”, “zero energy” and “plus energy”. In both last cases, a building produces as much or more energy through photovoltaic cells than it consumes on an annual basis. Anyhow, if applied on a large scale, both concepts will demand a complete transformation of the electricity grid, from passive to smart. Also, contrary to low energy buildings, passive, zero energy and plus energy buildings are beyond the economic optimum.
The EU decided to decrease energy consumption in 2020 by 20% compared to a business as usual scenario, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in 2020 compared to 1990 and to increase the share of renewable sources in the energy production to 20% by 2020. Even if from 2009 on all new construction would be of passive quality, 20% less consumption in the built environment will not be achievable by 2020. Moreover, the extremely stringent conditions in terms of energy use for heating in passive buildings have as a consequence that domestic hot water, lighting, function and cooling become the largest consumers, typically in the form of electricity, which weighs heavily in terms of primary energy (_ 2,5). And, energy conservation when these three are at stake is not easy. The only way out in the years to come is, aside of imposing performance requirements at the level of the economic optimum for new construction (E60, K30), promoting with all means energy efficient renovation, energy efficient lighting and energy efficient appliances.

 

Municipal Solid Waste: What to do with the biodegradables?

Belgium Academies (ARB)
2010

Geen abstract, enkel deze draak van een samenvatting:
The paper deals with the biodegradable part of waste generated by citizens in urban environments. This is essentially household waste and gardening waste. Assimilated to this category of waste is almost all that comes from restaurants, canteens and food shops inasmuch as its composition is similar to that of house hold waste.
In the European Union, people generate currently 523 kg per inhabitant and per year of municipal solid waste (MSW). Hazards and nuisances associated with dumping are deemed unacceptable. Very specific and mandatory regulations make landfilling very difficult to manage. The trend is, accordingly, to reduce as far as possible the residual amount of waste to dump. Today, in most developed countries, local programs aim to separate household hazardous wastes (chemical cleaners, pesticides, paints, batteries, oils, etc…) and to recover certain materials (metals, paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, textiles, etc…) at the source. There remains however currently 204 kg/inhabitant. year of biodegradable waste in MSW, and it is responsible for most of the waste’s related disturbances in urban environments. For the European Union with its 500 million inhabitants, this makes 102 million Mg (1Mg = 1 metric tonne) of biodegradable MSW, i.e. approximately 20% of all biodegradable waste generated by economic activities each year in the EU. This justifies fully the present report.
From a legal standpoint, the European Union adopts directives which must be transposed by Member States in their own legislation within a given period of time. This report includes a short analysis of the main directives of interest for the subject treated. The new Directive 2008/98/EC is examined in detail; it introduces a waste hierarchy in 5 points: prevention; preparing for re-use; recycling; other recovery, e.g. energy recovery; disposal. The present status of legislation in Belgium is also described briefly.
The best available techniques for the treatment of biodegradables contained in MSW are examined, restricting the scope to techniques that “have been developed and tried with success on an industrial scale allowing implementation in the relevant industrial sector, under economically and technically viable conditions” as defined in Directive 2008/1/EC.  Accordingly, R&D processes and pilot plants are not included. However, some processes which still depend on subsidies for survival are discussed in the report.
Among the high temperature processes, incineration may be considered as pertaining to the best available techniques for the treatment of MSW, because it complies with all the conditions imposed by the relevant EU directives, including environment protection. Biodegradables contained in MSW are easily processed in mass-burn, modular or fluidized-bed incinerators. There is no need for separate collection or pre - liminary sorting out. They can be burnt as such, even in cardboard or plastics packaging. A preparation step is however required before introduction in a fluidized bed incinerator. If the incinerator plant generates enough energy to comply with the requirements defined in Annex II/R1 of the Directive 2008/98/EC, it can be called “Energy recovery plant”.
Other high temperature processes (pyrolysis, gasification and plasma processes) are not considered today as “best available techniques” in the European Union for various reasons mentioned in the report. They should be monitored for their technical and economical progresses. The low temperature processes are not able to treat MSW as such. They can only cope with the biodegradables fraction contained in MSW, and necessitate either separate collection of the biodegradables at the source or adequate sorting of MSW before loading in the process. There are two possibilities: aerobic treatment (composting) and anaerobic digestion (biomethanisation). The two processes depend on microorganisms for their correct functioning. Only part of the carbon is converted to CO2.
Composting can be operated over a large range of scale from very small (home and backyard) to large centralized composting plants. At the small scale, there is the advantage that biodegradables are re - moved from the waste stream. At the large scale, the process becomes more difficult to operate because of the need to feed correctly air and water to the load and also because the liquids must be recovered andtreated. There is no energy recovery. Good quality compost can be considered as a fertilizer and a soil amendment. However, a true market for this compost does not seem to exist.
Biomethanisation received a lot of attention during the past decades, because it generates methane that can be used to recover energy. There are various ways to operate the process, and potential feedstocks from different origins may be envisaged (agricultural origin; industrial origin; MSW and sewage sludge). There are difficulties to control properly the process especially if the characteristics of the load change with time. Energy recovery is much lower than with incineration. Good quality digestate can be considered as a fertilizer. Again, a true market for this digestate does not seem to exist. The process is economically viable only when subsidies are available. A detailed discussion is included in the report. In preliminary remarks it is stated that: any chemical element present in the incoming stream will anyhow be present in the outputs in the same quantity (this holds especially for heavy metals); no process may claim any “greenhouse effect” advantage (after decomposition, compost and digestate end up with CO2 and H2O); for energy recovery, when the global process is split into two partial processes, with the first of the partial exothermic, the net calorific effect of the second partial is reduced (this is the case for the combustion of methane from anaerobic digestion); most flawed waste policies forget and leave out thermodynamics; “not in my backyard” emotional reactions are ruled out if the technology does not justify them. The discussion is split in two parts: the first one is limited to scientific, technological, economical and environmental considerations; the second to legal considerations.
Finally, the conclusions present the necessary elements for the authorities to make correct decisions. After reducing by all possible means the amount of biodegradables contained in MSW, the main decision deals with proceeding or not to the separate collection of the biodegradables remaining in MSW at the source , taking all elements in consideration. There are also recommendations. Among them appears the need for new European directives and BREF documents for composting and anaerobic digestion: this could help in generating markets for compost and digestate.

 

Drought, even in Flanders?

Belgium Academies (ARB)
2009

Industry, agriculture and households as well as nature lay claims to the fresh water supplies. Mainly because of the high population density in Flanders the mean water availability per capita is low, to the extent that during certain periods water scarcity occurs. The effects of climate change are expected to worsen the situation. Apart from promoting a water saving attitude, the re-use of water and the use of precipitation have to be encouraged. By establishing quotas for groundwater abstraction, introducing an adjusted concession granting policy and a steering water pricepolicy, groundwater bodies being at poor quantitative status may be improved, whilst those who are at good status may stay in equilibrium. Urban and space planning should support the groundwater recharge, among other things by aiming at increased infiltration.

 

Industrial Biomass: Source of Chemicals, Materials, and Energy!

Belgium Academies (ARB)
2011

Biomass seemed a very promising resource for substituting fossil hydrocarbons as a renewable source of energy and as a sustainable raw material for various industrial sectors. However, during the first decade of the 21st century, competition between the use of biomass for food and feed on the one hand, and for energy and industrial applications on the other hand, became a big issue. Dramatic food price rises in the first half of 2008 were blamed to the use of arable land for the production of first generation biofuels at the expense of food and feed.
On purpose, the present report of the BACAS working group does not focus on the food and feed issue, but examines thoroughly the implications and limitations of the use of non- food (industrial ) biomass as a source of chemicals, materials and energy. For its analysis, the BACAS report started from the widely accepted “5 F-cascade”, a list of priorities regarding the use of biomass:
1.    Food and feed
2.    Fine and bulk chemicals and pharma
3.    Fibre and biomaterials
4.    Fuels and energy
5.    Fertilisers and soil conditioners
The authors have covered the impact of an increasing use of industrial (or technical) biomass as a renewable resource for various industrial sectors and for power generation. The use of biomass as a renewable primary energy source will be of key importance for achieving the 20/20/20 targets of the European Union, i.e. use of at least 20% of renewables for energy production, 20% less greenhouse gas emissions and 20% more efficient energy use by the year 2020: biomass is expected to provide 2/3 of the renewable energy target by 2020.
The report starts with an overview of state-of-the-art processes and technologies for converting industrial biomass. Next, it focuses on the 5 F-cascade of applications of biomass and on the legislation affecting the bio-based economy. Finally a number of recommendations are formulated meant for government, industry, research and development agencies.
The EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) should develop an integrated policy for the bio-based economy, including the removal of still existing trade barriers, a scientifically substantiated policy with regard to genetically modified crops and sustainability criteria.
The public and private scientific communities are urged to set up public-private partnerships in order to support coordinated research programs, in particular with regard to feedstock yields and biomass optimization in view of maximizing the efficiency of processes converting biomass into energy or industrial products.

 

CO2 capture and storage: inevitable for a climate friendly Belgium

Belgium Academies (ARB)
2010

In industrial installations, but also for power production, it will be difficult or impossible to avoid the use of fossil fuels in the short to medium future. It is exactly for these applications that CCS can be applied to drastically reduce the emission of CO2.
The industry in Belgium is CO2 intensive and CO2 capture appears therefore as an inevitable option to meet environmental goals without jeopardizing general well-fare. All capture activities are to be balanced by geological storage, and the potential for that is uncertain in Belgium. Transport of CO2, by pipeline or ship, is however relatively cheap and efficient, even over distances of several hundreds of kilometers. It is therefore reassuring that the European storage potential is sufficiently large for large scale CCS activities throughout the EU. Nevertheless, it is highly recommendable to start exploration for domestic storage reservoirs.
CO2 capture and storage is a climate friendly measure that does not need sustained financial support to be viable. After a relatively short commercialization phase the Emission Trading System (ETS) price of CO2 will by itself be a sufficient economic stimulus. Nevertheless, early support is crucial for fast and large-scale application of CCS. Therefore, this report includes recommendations that should lead to a clear energy policy that includes CCS and public funding for a correctly balanced public-private investment scheme for essential developments that will contribute to the common good.
CCS is not a perfect solution. The option of CCS would not be on the table, were it not essential and inevitable. This is true for the world as a whole, but also for Belgium and its regions Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels-Capital.