Greenpeace fights it out with Austrian utility

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A stand-off between environmental organisation Greenpeace and Austrian utility Wienstrom over green power pricing and transmission has garnered considerable interest from Austrian power consumers. More than 1000 electricity customers have ordered green power through a program offered by Greenpeace-but no agreement for transmitting the power has been agreed with the utility.

According to Erwin Mayer of Greenpeace, a recent survey revealed that 77% of Austrians are ready to buy green power if it is sold at the same price as conventional energy. At the moment, however, there is not enough green power being traded to meet such demand, and the possibility for consumers to switch their energy supplier from utility to green power producer is far too complicated, Mayer says.

The row began when Greenpeace Austria signed a power purchase contract with wind station company Windkraft Wolkersdorf for 25,000 kWh of electricity a year-and at the same time cancelled its power supply contract with Wienstrom, the utility serving Vienna. Business relations with the utility could not be cut off, however, because the power from the Windkraft Wolkersdorf's Enercon 500 kW turbine must flow through Wienstrom's grid to reach the Greenpeace office.

In an attempt to change supply conditions and force the cost of wind power down to match the average price of electricity in Austria, Greenpeace demanded a 50% cut in transmission charges and has refused to pay the energy tax on the electricity. It is now paying ATS 1.35/kWh to the wind company plus a transmission charge of ATS 0.30/kWh to Wienstrom and ATS 0.33/kWh income tax, adding up to ATS 1.98/kWh (EUR 0.14/kWh). Austria's renewable energy lobby, Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie, strongly supports the move, having recently complained to the government that high transmission charges are suffocating the renewable power market before it takes its first breath (Windpower Monthly, May 1999). "Utilities had hoped to fob us off over sorting out these issues until the autumn," Mayer says. Pressure is building, however, for a more immediate solution.

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