ÖFor a long time now, three-quarters of Austria’s electricity generation has been based on climate-friendly electricity, primarily from hydropower. However, the expansion of wind and solar power has only progressed slowly. That should change now. By 2030, the remaining quarter should also come from renewable electricity, primarily from wind, sun and even more hydropower.
One billion euros are to flow into the expansion annually, which will be levied as a levy. This was decided by parliament with votes from the ruling People’s Party and the Greens as well as the opposition social democratic SPÖ. A majority of two thirds of the votes was necessary because the law affects national rights.
The SPÖ has used the lever to enforce its demand to cap the costs for low-income earners. Accordingly, those households that do not have to pay broadcasting fees are completely exempt from green electricity taxes. For those households that live on social assistance and a minimum pension or are run by single women, it is limited to 75 euros per year, according to the SPÖ. Around 550,000 households benefit from this. Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) announced that the levy for the remaining 3.5 million households will rise from the current average of almost 100 euros to around 114 euros. According to the industry, households in Austria pay 21 cents per kilowatt hour, in Germany it is almost 32 cents.
The expansion law is one of the major climate policy projects of the black-green government in Vienna, which is stuck in some internal political turmoil. Actually, the Renewable Expansion Law (EAG) was supposed to be passed last year. Now Gewessler said: “The energy transition is starting in Austria.” Your state secretary, Magnus Brunner, appointed by the ÖVP, said that subsidies of 10 billion euros would trigger investments of more than 30 billion euros.
However, the green electricity balance should only be balanced over the year in 2030. In the event of bottlenecks or in winter, electricity from gas-fired or frowned-upon nuclear power plants in the Czech Republic, Hungary or Slovakia will continue to help secure Austria’s electricity supply.
So that this happens as rarely as possible, expansion targets are set for the additional feed-in of 27 terawatt hours (tWh) of green electricity: wind power is to be doubled to 10 tWh, solar power to be sixfold to 11 tWh. Another 10 percent are to be squeezed out of the hydropower, which has been criticized for its local environmental impact. There are a few 100 million euros for district heating and hydrogen projects. The payment of green electricity producers will also change: instead of a fixed premium, there will be a subsidy for investment and a surcharge (market premium) on the electricity price.
The law also includes a better position for so-called energy communities, a favorite project of the Greens. Local private green electricity producers can give their surplus electricity to other consumers in the vicinity with little or no network costs. That does not suit the electricity industry, which generally draws a positive conclusion from the law. Michael Strugl, President of the Austrian Energy Industry Association, warns: “With a cheap network tariff and low flat rates on the one hand and the payment of a market premium for electricity not consumed by the company on the other, there is a risk of massive distortions of competition.” In the end, electricity customers would have to pay for the costs .
Now the law still needs to be notified and approved by the EU Commission. It is a first step on the way to the climate neutrality promised by the year 2040. The largest CO2 emissions in Austria come from traffic, agriculture and construction. Laws to reduce emissions, such as higher taxation on oil and gas and improvements in local public transport, have been announced.