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Green mobility – Charging Infrastructure and Electric Vehicles in Belgium

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Belgium

The use of electric vehicles ("EVs") in Belgium is growing steadily. Yet there is a remarkable difference between the availability of charging stations in Flanders and Wallonia & Brussels. This could possibly be a consequence of the different approach of the regions and the different initiatives that are taken.

This newsletter briefly discusses the division of competences concerning EVs in Belgium (section 1), and then summarizes the permitting and regulatory aspects of charging infrastructure (section 2) and the main existing incentives for electric vehicles (section 3).

1. Division of competences

In Belgium, a federal state, different sets of regulations co-exist, based on the competences of the federal authorities and the regions (article 6,§1 of the Special Act of Institutional Reform of 8 August 1980 (BWHI)). Following this division of competence, the regions (Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia) hold the bulk of competences and responsibility regarding electric vehicles and the infrastructure of charging points.

  • The competences of the regions are town and country planning, the protection of the environment, the distribution and local transport of electricity, the rational use of energy, roads and their appurtenances, communal urban and regional transport, including special forms of transport (taxi services and car rental).
  • The relevant competences of the federal state concern product standards, access to the transmission grid and security of supply.

The way in which competences are divided for tax aspects in Belgium, result in a fragmentation of the tax analysis regarding charging points. For example, the federal government is the competent authority for granting tax reductions via personal taxes and benefits in kind (such as company cars). The regions, on the other hand, are competent for road tax, the kilometre levy and the tax on traffic. Each of these taxes can be structured to contain incentives to stimulate electric driving such as via the recent federal law of 25.11.2021 on fiscal and social greening of mobility that introduces a regulation on the tax deductibility of company cars and loading stations; by 2026 only emission free cars will be 100% deductible.

In the Regions, the main recent regulatory changes in relation to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure are:

  • Flanders: Title XI/1 Energy Decree 8 May 2009 and Energy Decision 19 November 2010 – Electromobility: implementation of the EPB-Directive that introduced obligations for new, renovated and existing buildings, including obligations on electric vehicles charging points.
  • Wallonia: Decree of 17 December 2020 altering the Decree of 28 November 2013 regarding energy performance of buildings
  • Brussels: Ordonnance of 19 July 2001 regarding the organisation of the electricity market in the Brussels Capital Region 1. Division of competences Green mobility – Charging Infrastructure and Electric Vehicles in Belgium

2. Charging infrastructure overview

2.1 Permits and concessions for charging infrastructure

On the public domain, public authorities usually work with domain concessions: the public authority grants a person the right to use part of the public domain on a temporary basis and in a manner that excludes the rights of others to occupy this part of the domain. When an authority wishes to install charging points on the own private domain (e.g. a parking lot), this will fall within the public procurement rules.

Flanders

No permit (town-planning and environmental) is required for the installation of a charging point on public domain following article 10, 5° of the Flemish Decree on Exemption. The charging station is considered as an ordinary belonging to the public domain. In addition, the installation of a charging station on the private domain does not require a permit. This exemption is an initiative from the government to incentivise electric vehicles.

Although no environmental permit is required for the installation of a charging point (exception in Vlarem II finding its basis in category 12.3), a permission is required from the Flemish Region or one of its agencies if a charging point is to be installed on a road or appurtenances managed by the Flemish Region.

For example, the Agency for Roads and Traffic (AWV) has recently launched a call for projects for fast chargers along motorways and regional roads, with a total of 68 locations being made available. A domain licence will be issued for the utility lines (including electricity cabins) and also for the charging stations and power units and the corresponding parking spaces. The operators however still need to obtain their own environmental permit for several constructions other than the charging points. This same Agency has also made part of its domain available to the European BENEFIC project. This is a project call launched by the Flemish and Brussels governments for the realisation of charging infrastructure.

Wallonia

No permit (town-planning and environmental) is required, except when the charging point is located outside on private domain (so not inside a building). This only concerns a town-planning permit and it can be obtained via a simplified procedure. Brussels In Brussels, no environmental permit is required for the installation of a charging point. There is no clear regulation on the obligation of a town-planning permit, but generally this is not deemed necessary.

2.2 Domestic policy and access to charging infrastructure

Publicly accessible charging stations are charging stations that provide access to users of electric vehicles on a non-discriminatory basis. There is a form of authentication or payment before the user can proceed with charging his electric vehicle. Such charging points are usually connected to the distribution network and operated by a Charging Point Operator (CPO), who is responsible for the financing, installation, maintenance and operation of the points. It is also the CPO that must conclude a contract with an electricity supplier who holds a supply licence. One can also distinguish the Mobility Service Provider (MSP). The MSP has an agreement with the actual user of the charging services for charging his or her vehicle in exchange for a fee. An MSP can offer charging services for its own charging points, for which it is also CPO, or for charging points of other CPOs, by concluding agreements with other MSPs.

Flanders

The installation of a charging station requires a connection to the distribution network. The operator of the charging point can opt to build the rest of the network for the distribution of the access point on the distribution network (with EAN). The operator is then responsible for the construction, management and maintenance of the private distribution network, without having any public service obligations towards the customer, this is an exception on the ban to build and exploit a private distribution network.

An additional supply licence for the operator is not necessary. If the private distribution network crosses the public domain, the operator must obtain permission from the distribution system operator.

Wallonia

Regarding the necessity of a supply license, article 30 §6 Walloon Electricity Decree provides for an exemption of a supply license for the supply of electricity to users of public charging points, on the condition that the connection of the charging point itself is covered by a supply licence. A problem rises however when the operator is the supplier of its self-generated electricity. This operator would in theory need a supply license. The CWaPE (Walloon energy regulator) raised this issue in its advice of 29 January 2021, and suggested that in this case the operator should also be explicitly exempted from the obligation to have a supply license.

Concerning the larger grids, no similar exemption as in Flanders exists regarding the ban on private distribution grids. One exemption to this ban however, is the provision of electricity as part of a larger service (article 15bis, §1 Walloon Electricity Decree). The CWaPE qualified the charging via charging points as a service instead of as the supply of electricity. Following this broader qualification as a service, charging stations can be considered as an exemption to the ban on private distribution grids and are therefore not in need of a supply license.

Brussels

BRUGEL (the Brussels energy regulator) has advised that the offering of charging services does not qualify as the supply of electricity in the strict sense, but as a broader service ("Guide to the interpretation of the public service obligations of suppliers in the Brussels-Capital Region"). For this reason is a supply license, as defined in article 21 of the Brussels Electricity Ordonnance, not required for the operator of a charging station. However, BRUGEL did not communicate on the possibility to extend the network and create a larger grid. Since no exemption on the general ban on private distribution grids exist, it is assumed in legal doctrine that article 24 Brussels Electricity Ordonnance applies, which obliges the distribution grid operator, by way of as a public service obligation, to adopt and implement the necessary technical measures to allow the electricity supply via these charging points.

The Brussels-Capital Region works with an exclusive partner for the supply, installation and operation of publicly accessible charging stations with an exclusive service concession. Through this concession, 100 charging points (with 2 charging points each) must initially be installed. This network will then be expanded according to the "charging point follows car" principle (at the request of residents and operators). It is planned that between 19 October 2021 and 18 October 2022, the distribution network operator will organise the calls for tender for the concession of public spaces that allow the installation of charging stations.

For more information, please view Green mobility – Charging Infrastructure and Electric Vehicles in Belgium.

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