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IEA praises Austria’s clean energy transition efforts

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Austria is committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2040 at the latest – 10 years earlier than the goal set by the European Union. To meet this deadline, the Austrian government will need to step up decarbonization efforts across all parts of its energy sector, the International Energy Agency said in its in-depth review of the country’s energy policies.

Austria’s main challenge in its transition to a cleaner energy future – a challenge shared by many IEA countries – is the decarbonization of the heating and transport sectors.

Austria’s CO2 emissions have grown since 2014, largely driven by an increase in final energy consumption in buildings and transport. Until recently, Austria risked missing its 2020 mandatory emissions reduction target that covers sectors such as buildings and transport that fall outside the European Union Emission Trading System  – and was also not on track to reach the 2030 target. 

 “At such a critical time for clean energy transitions around the world, I commend the Austrian government’s determination to accelerate the transformation of its energy system. The IEA looks forwards to supporting this important policy.”

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

The IEA welcomed the government’s plans to phase out oil- and coal-fired heating systems by 2035, while ensuring energy security. The IEA also applauded the government’s commitment to a comprehensive tax reform to achieve true-cost pricing for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in sectors not covered by the EU’s emissions trading system, especially transport.

This in-depth review was finalized before the Covid-19 pandemic. The report therefore does not take into account the potential effects of the Covid-19 crisis on Austria’s energy sector and related greenhouse gas emissions, IEA noted.

“As Austria prepares stimulus plans to respond to the Covid-19 and resulting economic crises, the Austrian government should consider how these plans can help to create jobs while supporting the country’s clean energy transition. The IEA stands ready to provide advice, based on proven examples of past success and international best practice.”

Austria already has the third highest share of renewable electricity among IEA member countries at 77% of generation in 2018. It aims to raise this to 100% of electricity supply by 2030. This will require a resilient and flexible electricity system capable of accommodating a growing share of variable renewables. Such a system would support the electrification of the economy and the use of demand-side management opportunities offered by digitalization, although this will require an enabling legal and regulatory framework for more active consumer involvement.

Austria’s vast resources of pumped hydropower storage will play an increasingly important role in both the Austrian electricity market and in the continued integration of the European market. These resources provide storage and flexibility that is needed to accommodate the growing share of variable renewable generation in the Austrian and European electricity systems.

Moreover, Austria’s ‘Greening the Gas’ initiative is promoting the conversion of power to renewable gas facilities and seasonal storage of renewable gases, including hydrogen, that would help with the integration of high shares of variable renewables in electricity generation and would also make use of the country’s extensive gas storage facilities.

“I congratulate Austria on having a strong track record in mobilising private sector funding for research, development and innovation. The IEA also considers Austria’s recent initiative to report on energy research spending in the private sector, broken down by technology fields, as a best practice example among IEA countries.”

Anela Dokso

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