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Austria

Austria

Special Report Europe 2020 - Limited expectations - Not making the best of their potential - Directive puts pressure on Austrian government to act

By 2020 the share of renewables in Austria's energy supply must rise to 34% to meet the requirements of the EU energy directive, up from 23.3% in 2005. Even though the large hydro resource in the country is fully exploited, the target can easily be met, says the Austrian renewables lobby, representing the wind, biomass, small hydro, waste and biogas sectors.

Plenty of potential to meet target says renewables lobby, but amended law is stuck in Brussels.

By 2020 the share of renewables in Austria's energy supply must rise to 34% to meet the requirements of the EU energy directive, up from 23.3% in 2005. Even though the large hydro resource in the country is fully exploited, the target can easily be met, says the Austrian renewables lobby, representing the wind, biomass, small hydro, waste and biogas sectors. It believes renewables can contribute 130.6 TWh a year by 2020, or 43% of the total 305.6 TWh of energy consumption in 2005, including heating and transport. Even if energy use is not stabilised going forward, with such a wide margin for error, the 34% target should be safe, says the lobby.

Of the 130.6 TWh of energy, green electricity could provide 60 TWh, with the share from wind energy rising to 7 TWh a year, or 3% of electricity consumption, up from 2 TWh today. While that is a sizable increase, it does not mean that many more wind turbines in the landscape, says Stefan Hantsch from Austrian wind association IG Windkraft. Using today's larger and more efficient technology, the number of turbines would need to rise from the current 618 to around 1100, says Hantsch, raising installed capacity from the current 995 MW to 3.5 GW in 2020.

But if Austria continues with its present rate of wind turbine installation, it will take 180 years to reach the 7 TWh needed to meet the EU's 2020 target, contends Hantsch. Until 2006, a power purchase price set by government of EUR0.078/kWh payable for 13 years was enough to drive a market for a steady 200 MW of new wind a year. But an amendment to the Eco-electricity law in that year stopped the market in its tracks by lowering the price to EUR0.0755/kWh in 2007 and reducing the term of the guaranteed rate to ten years, with a drop to 70% of the rate in the eleventh year and 50% in the twelfth year. Just ten turbines with a combined capacity of 19.5 MW were installed in 2007. Last year the rate for turbines coming on line dropped to EUR0.0754/kWh, with the same conditions applied as for 2007. Just seven turbines (14 MW), went up. The rate this year is likely to be EUR0.0753/kWh.

Extended purchase price

With such little development taking place, just EUR2.43 million of the EUR8.59 million budget for purchase of wind power has been used, reports Okostrom Abwicklungstelle, the government agency responsible for management of the eco-electricity market. Aware of the problem, the government again amended its eco-electricity law in July 2008, but is waiting for authorisation from the EU Commission to bring it into force since it also introduces measures protecting industry from higher electricity prices, raising the spectre of illegal state aid. The amendment extends the purchase price period to 13 years once more and introduces the option to increase the rate as required. The existing law only allows for rate reductions. The amendment also raises the annual budget for purchase of all renewables to EUR21 million, up from EUR17 million, and abolishes quotas for each renewable. Currently wind is allowed 30% of the budget.

Hantsch says the EU procedure is taking a long time. "It's not clear when authorisation will be granted. The Austrian government must put more effort into its activity in Brussels," he says. Hantsch points out that Austria supported the Commission's efforts to bring in a pan-European market for trade of green energy certificates that would have allowed countries with good renewables resources to help countries struggling to meet their targets. The failure of the Commission's plan means the Austrian government must rethink before drawing up a national energy strategy in 2010, says Hantsch.

Sara Knight, Windpower Monthly

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