On October 15 2017 Austria elected a new Parliament. Following the elections, a new government was formed – a coalition between the Austrian Peoples Party (OVP) and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO). On December 16 2017 the new government presented its government programme,(1) which sets out its framework and indicates the legislative projects that it intends to implement over the coming five years. A major part of the new programme focuses on energy. The chapter on energy addresses:
- renewable energy;
- security of supply;
- clean mobility (traffic); and
- climate and energy strategies.
This update focuses on:
- renewable energy;
- security of supply; and
- energy strategies.
According to the government programme, OVP and FPO plan to increase renewable energy production continually. With regard to electricity generation, the government programme foresees an expansion of renewable energy sources. By 2030 100% of the national electricity supply will come from renewable sources. The new government also intends to optimise the subsidies scheme to make it cost efficient. The details of the new programme are set out below:
- The new government plans to reform the renewable electricity subsidies scheme and enact a new energy law. By reforming the renewable electricity subsidies scheme, the government plans to implement EU legal requirements (eg, EU state aid law, the EU Renewable Energy Directive and the new electricity market design). According to the government programme, a special focus will be put on market premiums and investment incentives.
- The government plans to introduce measures to increase the amount of renewable energy in the heating sector. These measures include, among other things, the development of biomass, solar thermal energy, heating pumps and micro-cogeneration.
- One of the government's long-term plans is to switch from oil-fired heating to renewable energy and heating sources, as well as a regeneration policy for old heating boilers. The new government also intends to optimise existing heating systems.
- The OVP and FPO want to introduce a so-called '1,000 roof programme' – an investment incentive for private photovoltaics and small storages.
- According to the programme, alternative financing instruments for renewable energy and citizen participation will be increased.
- The new government plans to eliminate the tax on self-sufficient power generation. It wants to encourage businesses and private citizens to install rooftop photovoltaic systems for energy production. According to the government, not only would eliminating the tax on self-sufficient power generation increase the economic advantage of such systems, it would also make subsidies less important.
- The Energy Efficiency Act will also be evaluated and reformed within the next five years.
One of the top priorities of the new government programme is to maintain the high level of security of supply in the Austrian energy sector. The new government plans to increase security of supply, while seeking to make Austria less dependent on energy imports.
The government intends to foster decentralised electricity generation and new storage technologies. At the same time, the government programme foresees an adaptation of the necessary infrastructure. In order to reach this goal, the government plans to extend and modernise the network infrastructure:
- It plans to develop an Austrian network infrastructure plan for the energy network and security of supply in order to ensure strategic energy planning with the federal states and local communities.
- It plans to increase the investments in infrastructure (generation and networks) and safeguard existing necessary resources. The government is committed to developing local hydropower plants and pump-storage power plants further. This includes a commitment to reform and enact the necessary regulatory framework. The government programme foresees that the reserve capacity (balance and control energy) will be secured by using tendering procedures and market mechanisms that include all possible market participants. At the same time, the government is committed to considering the costs for businesses and private households. Moreover, the government programme includes a plan to promote fairness in relation to network financing, meaning that there should be no balancing of metering points.
- According to the government programme, a framework for increased decentralised energy supply and empowered regional supply concepts will be created.
- The new government plans to adapt the tariff structure in order to stay abreast of the dynamic electricity price developments.
- The new government intends to develop Austrian resources further, instead of importing energy. The goal is to move towards more (complete) self-sufficient electricity generation in Austria.
- The government programme foresees the expansion of local storage facilities and local networks.
- The government programme includes the plan for a new regulation for district heating pipeline rights. At present, district heating is at a disadvantage, as pipeline rights per decree cannot be issued if the property owner does not consent. This causes additional costs, making district heating less popular.
The new government is convinced that innovation and investments for a cleaner and more secure energy future need a proper regulatory framework. To facilitate investment, the government plans to improve planning security and legal certainty and dismantle bureaucracy. This is especially true for large infrastructure projects (eg, power plants and network expansions), which are necessary for the energy reform. Currently, the procedures for large infrastructure projects are time consuming and complicated. This is, according to the government, hindering the transformation of the energy sector and endangering the security of supply. Therefore, the government programme includes a plan to speed up and simplify the licensing procedures and dismantle bureaucracy. In detail, the government programme foresees the following steps:
- There will be an expansion of the federal legislative organ for the electricity sector. Due to the lack of competency on a federal level, a constitutional provision is necessary even if only a minor change to the electricity act is enacted. Therefore, the government plans to create a federal legislative organ for electricity matters. This would not only lead to faster legislative proceedings, but also provide more legal certainty, as it would make the nine state electricity acts superfluous.
- The bureaucracy surrounding plant permits will be removed. According to the government programme, the business licences that business must obtain for photovoltaic systems will be abolished. Moreover, photovoltaic systems up to 150 kilowatts (kW) will no longer require a permit.
- The government programme intends to simplify the regulations regarding high-voltage current paths. Medium-voltage cables (up to 45 kW) will no longer require an electricity permit.
- Procedural efficiency – in order to increase the speed of procedures for network expansions, the government plans to amend the Energy Infrastructure Act. Currently, the act supports only cross-border infrastructure projects. However, in order to facilitate the energy reform, the government intends to include national projects, such as network expansion projects, wind parks, pump storage power plants and hydrogen storage.
The new government programme addresses some of the most pressing issues in the Austrian energy sector, such as a reform of the subsidies scheme for renewable energy and a decrease in energy imports. The government's goals are rather ambitious, given the fact that it hopes to have 100% of the national electricity supply come from renewable sources by 2030. However, since the government programme provides no details on how this goal will be achieved, it remains to be seen what changes the energy sector will face over the coming five years.
For further information on this topic please contact Stefanie Orator-Saghy at Schoenherr by telephone (+43 1 53 43 70) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Schoenherr website can be accessed at www.schoenherr.eu.
(1) A German version of the government programme can be found here.
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