Wind Energy in Austria

Austria.jpgAustria is among the global leaders in renewable energy, with nearly 70% renewables in its electricity mix. The natural conditions in Austria—hydropower, biomass, and a high wind energy potential—have allowed for this development. However, installation rates are currently decreasing due to political uncertainties.

In 2016, Austria installed 75 turbines with a capacity of 228 MW, compared to 108 turbines (319 MW) in 2015. By the end of 2016, more than 2,600 MW were installed in Austria. This capacity is able to produce 5.7 TWh, which accounts for 9.3% of the country’s electricity consumption. The government’s official capacity target is 3,000 MW per the Green Electricity Act (GEA) 2012. The feasible potential is estimated at 6.6 GW (17.7 TWh) by 2030.

National Objectives

Wind power installations significantly proliferated following the 2012 Ökostromgesetz (Green Electricity Act, GEA). This law established a 2020 target of 2,000 MW added wind power capacity over 2010 levels (1,011 MW). The law also upheld the existing feed-in-tariff (FIT) system. An ordinance by the Minister for Economic Affairs set the FIT, rather than the GEA itself; however, the FIT decreases automatically by 1% if not determined each year. The tariff for 2016 was 0.0904 EUR/kWh (0.0952 USD/kWh). For 2017, it was fixed at 0.0895 EUR/kWh (0.0942 USD/kWh).

The market price collapse significantly lowered the annual budget for green electricity. This has created a project queue, with projects waiting as long as 2025 for new funding. A small amendment to the GEA 2012 could lower the pressure and political uncertainty by allocating a 1.42 billion EUR (1.50 billion USD) investment to install the 260 turbines (850 MW) that have already been approved.

Renewable Energy Targets

The GEA 2012 preserved the existing targets:
  • 15% of renewable energy supply without large hydro
  • 1,700 MW total wind power capacity by 2015
Austria reached the 2015 GEA target in the first quarter of 2014. The GEA 2012 also established a long-term target of adding 2,000 MW of wind power capacity by 2020 (a total of 3,000 MW by 2020). This is higher than Austria’s wind energy target in its National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP). Austria set a target of 1,951
MW by 2015 and 2,578 MW by 2020 in the NREAP (per European Union directive 2009/28/EC).

In a 2014 study, the Austrian consultant Energiewerkstatt estimated that by 2020, Austria could achieve a total wind power capacity of 3,808 MW (annual production of 9 TWh), as well as a total capacity of 6,649 MW by 2030 (annual production of 17.7 TWh).

Policies Supporting Development

The 2002 GEA triggered investments in wind energy from 2003–2006. An amendment in 2006 created uncertainty among green electricity producers and restricted project development. This led to nearly four years of stagnation in Austria’s wind power market. A small amendment to the GEA in 2009 and a new FIT in 2010 (0.097 EUR/ kWh; 0.102 USD/kWh) improved the situation.

In July 2011, parliament adopted new legislation for electricity from renewable energy sources: the GEA 2012. This retained the existing FIT system, but established a stable legal framework through 2020 for the first time. However, there are still restrictions for new projects; projects only get a purchase obligation and a FIT if they contract with the Ökostromabwicklungsstelle (OeMAG), the institution in charge of buying green electricity at the FIT and selling it to the electricity traders.

The OeMAG contracts with green electricity producers are limited to the available funds for new projects – a budget that started with 50.0 million EUR/yr (52.7 million USD/yr). This is enough for approximately 120–350 MW of new wind capacity per year depending on the market price for electricity and the applications from photovoltaics and small hydro power plants. The budget decreases by 1.0 million EUR/yr (1.05 million USD/yr) for the first ten years.

The FIT is still set by an ordinance and is not fixed in the GEA 2012. The FITs are fixed in the Ökostromverordnung/Green Electricity Regulation by the Minister of Economic Affairs in accordance with the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Social Affairs. Tariffs are guaranteed for 13 years, and the purchase obligation is limited to a specific amount of capacity (depending on the available funds for new projects). The tariff for 2016 was set 0.0904 EUR/kWh (0.0952 USD/kWh) and will be 0.0895 EUR/kWh (0.0942 USD/kWh) in 2017.