Lobby says tariff far below average

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The tariff set for wind under Austria's eco-electricity law, Ökostromgesetz, which came into force at the start of the year, is too low says Interessensgemeinschaft Windkraft (IGW), the country's wind energy association. The nationwide feed-in tariff for wind is fixed at EUR 0.078/kWh, payable during the first 13 years of turbine operation and available to all projects granted building permits before the end of 2004.

"This arrangement is nothing to be proud of," says IGW's Stefan Hantsch. "The tariff is one of the lowest in Europe and way below the European average." According to Hantsch, the average is EUR 0.084/kWh and, with the exception of Lower Austria and Burgenland, the kWh payment is also lower than the tariffs paid by the individual Austrian states prior to the new regulations.

The Ökostromgesetz sets a target for 4% of the country's electricity to come from renewables (not including hydro power) by January 1, 2008. It replaces a system where each state set its own renewables feed-in tariff and sometimes also a limit on green power. "Our target is to have half the four per cent generated by wind, for which another 500 megawatts of wind capacity will have to be installed," Hantsch says.

The Austrian federal environment ministry and the state governments had supported calls for a system similar to Germany where tariffs vary according to the quality of the site. The economy ministry and the Austrian energy regulator, E-control, disagreed, however. "They opted for the easy solution proposed by E-control and based their calculations on a turbine at a prime site," says Hantsch, referring to the level at which the tariff was set.

Meantime, Austria has become home to the highest sited wind power plant in the world, now also the country's largest -- 19.25 MW located 2000 metres above sea level at Oberzeiring. The 11 Vestas V66 1.75 MW machines which make up the EUR 24 million wind station were installed with support from the EU, the Austrian government and the state of Steiermark. They are expected to generate over 40 million kWh a year, says operator Tauernwind Windkraftanlagen.

The company's Johannes Trauttmansdorff adds: "We are going to make it into a renewable energy education and adventure park, showing the public how important green energy and energy saving is. It'll be a disseminator of environmental theory and practice."

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