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Austria (2013)

Extent of network:

Austria occupies a central position in the EU electricity network and is connected to all of its neighbouring countries, with the exception of the Slovak Republic.

Energy framework:

RES-EThe key policy instrument at the national level to support RES-E is the Austrian Green Electricity Act (Ökostromgesetz). After its adoption in 2002, finely tuned feed-in tariffs caused a particularly strong deployment of wind energy, biomass and biogas. After a decline of support levels and further modifications (i.e. budget restrictions and reduced guaranteed duration of support) in recent years, the development of new RES-E projects in Austria had almost stopped. As a consequence, on September 23rd, 2009, the federal parliament passed an extensive amendment which included several improvements, notably longer support periods, adjusted tariffs and slightly increased and technology independent overall budget. These changes have recently stimulated capacity additions especially in wind and hydro power and biomass plants. RES-H&CIn Austria, national support policy for RES-H&C projects is provided by the Environmental Support Act (Umwelförderungsgesetz), which promotes RES mainly in the form of investment grants. It has recently been revised and a new extended support structure has been effective since October 1st 2009. This national regulation addresses commercial entities, non-profit organizations, public institutions and utilities. Private households receive investment grants for RES-H&C projects at the provincial level. From a financial point of view and also with regard to the observed effectiveness, these programs clearly represent the main promotion scheme for RES-H in Austria. RES-TIn Austria, RES in the transport sector are mainly supported in the form of biofuels. The support strategy is twofold. On the one hand, minimum blending obligations guarantee market access for biogenic products and, on the other hand, tax incentives provide financial support for biofuel production. The Resource Efficiency Action Plan (REAP)The Resource Efficiency Action Plan (REAP) was published in early 2012 by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management. It is an ongoing process and entails a multi-stakeholder partnership approach to achieving increased resource efficiency in Austria. Its overall objectives are to reduce the environmental impacts of resource consumption to create new markets, export opportunities and green jobs and to support the economy and industry in designing innovative and sustainable technologies, products and services. The REAP provides an analysis of recent resource efficiency trends and sets medium and long term national targets for increased resource efficiency. By 2020, resource consumption should be fully decoupled from economy growth, and resource efficiency should be increased by at least 50% compared with 2008.  As a long-term goal (2050) has been set to accomplish a 4/10 gain in resource efficiency.  In order to achieve these medium and long-term goals, REAP includes a short term implementation programme (2012-13), which focuses on four main “action fields”: i) resource-efficient production, ii) public procurement, iii) a closed loop economy and iv) raising awareness, in particular identifying specific measures of sustainable consumption and production, and identifying measures of the cascading use of natural resources. All renewable electricity generation technologies are eligible for the Austrian feed-in tariff. In contrast to the tariff, subsidies are available for small and medium-sized hydro-electric power stations only.Feed-in tariff. In Austria, electricity from renewable sources is supported mainly through a feed-in tariff, which is set out in the ÖSG 2012 and the regulations related thereto. The operators of renewable energy plants are entitled against the government purchasing agency, the so-called Ökostromabwicklungsstelle (hereinafter called "Clearing and Settlement Agency"), to the conclusion of a contract on the purchase of the electricity they produce ("obligation to enter into a contract"). Subsidy I. The construction of small and medium-sized hydro-electric power stations is subsidised by investment grants. The legal basis of these grants is the ÖSG 2012 in conjunction with the applicable subsidy directive. Subsidy II. Additionally to the feed-in tariff, an investment subsidy is granted for PV installations on buildings exceeding 5 kW. Subsidy III. Furthermore, subsidies are granted for small PV installations with a maximum capacity of 5 kW.

Renewable energy potential:

SolarSolar thermal power has been heavily supported at state level for decades and, alongside Greece, Austria is one of the countries with the highest square meterage of collectors per head of population. Wind EnergyAlthough Austria is a landlocked country with a distinguished hilly topography, meteorological preconditions permit the utilization of wind power. First calculations on the basis of wind measuring data assessed at the meteorological stations in the early 1980s rendered the result of annually approx. 6,600 to 10,000 gigawatt-hour (GWh) of technically exploitable wind energy potential in Austria. Biomass Austria has intensively utilised the biomass available to it, thanks to its extensive forests, and has even been doing so since before the Industrial Revolution. In terms of domestic heating, this “old” form of biomass was still very much in use up to the 1980s and 1990s and was also responsible for the relatively high percentage of renewable energy generated in Austria. This form of biomass that was often used for heating in multi-purpose furnaces in the home has since been massively overtaken in almost every region of Austria by the intensive expansion of natural gas networks and gas heating systems. This development was more pronounced up to the start of the new millennium than the development of “new” biomass, such as the use of wood pellet-based district heating systems. BiogasThe estimated total biogas potential per year lies between 265 and 414 million m3. With an average consumption of 1.200 nm3 per vehicle per annum a total amount of 345,000 vehicles could run on biogas in Austria. In comparison to that 4,600 vehicles were driving on natural gas in Austria in 2009. If energy crops and animal manure potential is considered, the total theoretical biogas potential amounts to 2.47 billion m3. If entire biogas potential would be used for transportation sector, 27% of conventional fuels could be replaced through biomethane. HydroA significant proportion of electricity generated in Austria has traditionally come from (large scale) hydroelectric power stations. For over a century, this form of energy has been used for economic reasons and also because of its local availability in the Alpine region that is abundant in water and, especially after the Second World War, also along the River Danube. In the 1990s, it already constituted over 70% of total electricity production. Due to rising fossil fuel prices since then, and the resulting higher electricity prices in Europe, the production of electricity from new large-scale hydroelectric power plants in Austria once again became economically attractive to the now more liberalised European electricity market.

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