Belgium may be confronted with a power shortage, especially on cold days in December and January and between 5 and 8pm, when many people return home from work and tackle their household chores. Cooking, washing and ironing are only some of the things that are very energy-consuming.
Special teams will monitor energy consumption and if it is approaching the maximum, some regions will be put offline to avoid a complete black-out, which would take place if the maximum level has been exceeded.The country has been divided into different areas which could be put offline in turn, but the major cities will escape.
It is not sure what the impact will be if some areas are put offline. Traffic lights will be out of order, and the streets will be in the dark. It will probably be impossible to withdraw cash from an ATM, or to make electronic payments by bank card, for example at a fuel station. Trains will no longer run, and you will be without the internet.
The latest news concerns tap water. As the pumps needed to bring the drinking water to the top of water towers will not work, there is a good chance you will be out of tap water. To put things into perspective, some point out that every problem has a positive side, predicting - as there is almost nothing to do in the case of a black-out - a baby-boom 9 months later... also in cities and areas that will not be put offline, as the authorities have asked people to save on energy consumption between 5 and 8pm and to postpone the typical household tasks for a while, or put out the TV when the tide is high.
The question is how much solidarity residents of densely populated areas (like the cities of Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent, that are not in danger of being put offline) will show. They are kindly requested to watch electricity consumption when this is necessary, but obviously no measures can or will be imposed on people who are not joining the effort. The government has started several awareness campaigns, and each a code will be given: green, orange, red or (in the worst case) black. The former implies a 'serious' situation.