New law fixes tariffs and quota -- Set for growth in Austria

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Grid operators in Austria are now obliged to pay a fixed premium tariff for all electricity generated by renewable energy and combined heat and power plant following a revision of the national electricity law, ElWOG, which passes into the statue books on October 1. The amendment raises the minimum standard for renewables generated power in the national electricity portfolio to 4% by the year 2007, from a previous obligation of 3% by 2005.

The Austrian wind power association, IG Windkraft, has welcomed the revision. It is particularly pleased that fixed tariffs remain an integral part of ElWOG.

The Austrian economics ministry had intended to scrap fixed pricing in favour of a Renewables Portfolio Standard, a system under which retailers of electricity must meet a legal requirement for a fixed percentage of renewables in their sales portfolios by buying tradable green power credits (Windpower Monthly, April 2000). Intensive lobbying by IG Windkraft, however, together with the biomass association and the federal renewables association, Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie (BVEE), led to the ministry revising its position to allow the fledgling market time to get established.

Although the revision became law at the beginning of the month, it will not take effect until a year later, on October 1, 2001, after the country's nine Länder have passed their own regional laws and decided on their individual tariffs. Some Länder use systems of floating tariffs depending on the season and time of day.

"This is not Austria's equivalent to Germany's renewable energy law, but it still lays the foundation to further growth in the renewables sector," says IG Windkraft's Stefan Hantsch. The German law, the Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG), fixes a national premium tariff for wind power, rather than allowing its federal states to set their own rates.

The percentage obligation will be introduced in stages: at least 1% of renewables from October 2001, at least 2% from October 2003, at least 3% from October 2005, and at least 4% from October 2007. The tariffs are to be based on the average costs for generating electricity from renewable energy.

Going strong

Wind development in Austria has picked up in recent months and total installed capacity will double by the end of the year, from 42 MW at the end of 1999 to 92 MW, says Hantsch. "We believe there is really a lot happening in our inland country. We already have 100 wind turbines in the ground and this year we will be doubling our output," he says. "We are very optimistic for the future." Some 500 people are employed in the Austrian wind industry, estimates IG-Windkraft.

Many of Austria's wind power plants are operated by citizens' co-operatives which have their roots in citizens' action committees set up in the 1980s to install solar collectors on the roofs of private houses. Per head of population, Austria is fifth in the world for rooftop solar generation. As the popularity of wind power grew, so did the activity of the co-operatives, which now have around 2500 individual members involved in wind power.

Lower Austria especially has been forging ahead with wind developments, perhaps benefiting from a more enlightened attitude to the new technology shown by regional utility ENW. Recent projects include the largest wind station in Lower Austria, built in June at Hipples in a wine growing area north of Vienna. The station, comprising seven Vestas V47 turbines, each with a top rated power of 660 kW, is being run by a 284 member strong operating co-operative.

Past 50 MW

Also in Lower Austria, four Enercon E40, 600 kW turbines went up at Stockerau in the Danube valley in the last week of August. Operated by a 100 strong co-operative, this brought Austrian wind power past 50 MW. "It may not be much on a global scale, but who would have thought that a small inland country like Austria could generate so much wind power," says Hantsch.

Other new installations in Lower Austria include two Enercon 1.8 MW E66 wind turbines at Hainsdorf and an NEG Micon 750 kW machine at Gaenserndorf, which last month became Austria's 100th wind turbine.

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