1. What electricity storage projects have been commissioned in your jurisdiction to date?

With its large-scale pumped-storage power and storage capacity in the Alps, Austria assumes an important role in the energy storage market in Central Europe. The total storage capacity of Austrian storage power plants amounts to circa 3 GW. 

The Austrian electricity market was liberalised in 2001 and, generally, electricity is not generated and supplied by monopolistic companies but instead organised through a wide range of market players. However, most of the biggest pumped-storage power plants (Malta, Silz, Limberg, Kopswerk, Reißeck, Häusling) are still partly or fully state-owned.

2. What electricity storage projects are anticipated in your jurisdiction in coming years?

A study carried out by the Energy Economics Group of the Vienna University of Technology in 2013 assumed that the majority of upcoming pumped-storage power plant installations will merely be extensions and/or upgrades of existing equipment. Therefore, only a slight increase in storage capacity is expected in the future. 

Because of the existing electricity storage capacity in pumped-storage power plants, alternatives such as compressed air storage systems etc. are not an important topic in Austria at the moment.

3. Is there any specific legislation/regulation or programme that relates to energy storage in your jurisdiction?

Electricity storage is not separately defined in the Austrian legislative framework. Neither the national Electricity Act(“ElWOG”) nor the provincial implementation laws define the term electricity storage. Despite this, pumped-storage power plants are referred to in various regulations. 

Pumped-storage power plants are qualified as energy generators and have to comply with the relevant legislation, in particular, with the Electricity Act(s). As a result, projects usually have to hold a generation licence pursuant to the provincial Electricity Act. 

However, there are certain exemptions for energy storage projects, e.g. temporary exemption from grid use fees for projects which were brought into operation after 7/8/2013 and exemption from electricity duty. In general, there are lower grid use fees for energy storage plants that qualify as end users under the Electricity Act.

4. Please give examples of challenges facing energy storage projects in your jurisdiction and how current projects have overcome these challenges.

Potential investors are being discouraged from investing in new pumped-storage projects by the current low electricity prices. Furthermore, the funding of green electricity affects the profitability of pumped-storage projects. Pumped storage power may not be labelled as hydro-generated power and therefore cannot be labelled as renewable energy. The expansion in wind and solar power, which provides more and more power at peak times (such as noon) and compete with “stored” electricity, have led to a reduced demand for stored energy at these times.

5. What are the main entities in the electricity sector and what are their roles or expected roles in relation to energy storage?

Legislative competence in the electricity sector is divided between the federal state and the nine provinces. The federal state is competent for framework legislation and the provinces are competent for implementation legislation. 

The relevant governmental departments in Austria are (on a national level) the Ministry for Science, Research and Economy, Section III (Energy and Mining), and (on a provincial level) specific departments in the governments of each of the nine provinces. 

The enforcement of electricity law falls within the sole competence of the provinces; the competent authorities are defined by the respective provincial law. 

“E-Control” (http://www.e-control.at), with its seat in Vienna, is the general regulator for electricity and natural gas markets throughout Austria. 

The main Transmission System Operator in Austria is Austrian Power Grid AG (as a 100% subsidiary of Verbund AG) which has the function of control area manager (“Regelzonenführer”) for Austria. Vorarlberger Übertragungsnetz GmbH as a second, regionally active TSO is subordinated to Austrian Power Grid AG.