New tariffs bring some hope -- Just 12 MW in Austria

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Revised feed-in tariffs should help to put new life into the Austrian wind sector according to Hans Winkelmeier, chairman of Interessengemeinschaft Windkraft Oesterreich (IG Windkraft), the Austrian wind association. Eight of the nine Austrian Länder had decided on their feed-in tariffs for wind by the end of last year, with only Styria still using rates from 1995. In 1999 just 12.45 MW of wind capacity was built in Austria, bringing the national total to 42 MW provided by 86 wind turbines.

The impetus for revising the rates comes from the renewables percentage obligation contained in Elwog, the electricity market law from February 1999. Under the law, grid operators must include a minimum of 3% renewables in their supply portfolios by 2005. Renewables include wind, solar and biomass.

The renewable energy feed-in tariff (REFIT) varies considerably from Land to Land, from an average ATS 0.46/kWh in Burgenland to ATS 1.24/kWh in Upper Austria. In each of the Länder, the tariff changes according to the season and demand period.

The Länder each have their own detailed tariff regulations. Some have rules running only for a short period. Upper Austria's tariff runs from September 29, 1999 to the end of 2000, while that of Salzburg runs from September 18, 1999 to end September 2000. Lower Austria and Burgenland limit their fixed tariffs to 80 MW of new wind installed after February 18, 1999. Upper Austria and Salzburg pay a lower rate for power from large turbines rated at 2 MW and above.

The rates in Salzburg and Burgenland are too low to cover generating costs, according to Winkelmeier. And in most other Länder turbines are still not viable without more support, though the new rates are an improvement.

IG Windkraft says it would have preferred the a federal-wide REFIT like Germany, but it believes the mix of Austrian tariffs will enable 30-40 MW of new wind in 2000. IG's Stephan Hantsch also sees the new tariffs opening the way for sites in difficult terrain.

Initial satisfaction over the tariffs was dampened, though, by the realisation that the 3% ceiling has already been reached in some areas, particularly in the more windy east, meaning a drop in average payments from about ATS 0.90/kWh to ATS 0.60/kWh. The wind sector in eastern regions is also under pressure because the agricultural lobby insists that half the 3% be provided by biogas.

Hantsch hopes that a long awaited Elwog reform will soon be passed, which should bring a better deal for wind. In particular, it is expected to include drastically reduced grid charges for renewables to facilitate the delivery of green energy "to all interested consumers." Present grid charges for deliveries to households vary widely across the country, the lowest rate being ATS 0.62/kWh and the highest ATS1.39/kWh, according to the Austrian renewables association. Rates for industrial deliveries are lower.

New in 1999

Austria's largest new wind farm, in Lower Austria, is the Windpark Leitzersdorf, made up of four Bonus 1 MW machines. It went into operation in November. In the same month Vestas installed a total of five 660 kW turbines at two stations: Oberrödham (three units) and Spörbichl (two units) in Upper Austria.

The other new plants were one 750 kW NEG Micon turbine at the Plankogel wind station in Styria, four DeWind Technik 600 kW machines at Windpark Zistersdorf in Lower Austria and four Enercon E40 500 kW turbines installed alongside two existing Enercon 500 kW units at Zurndorf in Berne.

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