Permits but no payment system

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Austria added 192 MW to its wind generation base in 2004, or 108 turbines, at a cost of EUR 211 million. The country's cumulative wind power capacity is now 606 MW provided by 424 turbines, which last year generated 1.2 TWh of electricity, equivalent to the annual consumption of 350,000 households, reports national wind organisation IG Windkraft.

German turbine maker Enercon dominates the Austrian market, supplying 67% of the newly installed capacity last year and responsible for 48% of all turbine sales. Vestas supplied 19.7% of the market last year, which it has a 33% overall share of.

Permits were granted in 2004 for a further 200 MW of wind plant, or 100 turbines, all of it due for installation over the next 18 months, a potential investment in excess of EUR 20 million. But the prospects for further construction permits this year are not good. "The government's stop and go policy brings absolute uncertainty for plant awaiting a permit," says IG Windkraft.

Austria's regulation setting fixed payment rates for electricity from renewable energy installations expired at the end of 2004 when the government's planned amendment to the eco-electricity law, the Ökostromgesetz, failed to win a majority vote. It would have set a new framework for 2005-2010.

The wind energy lobby fought vehemently against the amendment, partly because it threatened to overturn the current fixed rate system and replace it with a market based on competitive tenders for power purchase contracts, and party because the draft law also contravened Austria's constitution in a number of ways, says the wind lobby. While negotiations continue for a new law, it is not clear whether or not a fixed rate of pay for this year's newly installed wind plant will be re-introduced under existing law. Nor is it clear if the rate will be maintained at 2004's level, or reduced.

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