During his time as chancellor, Sebastian Kurz set the goal of having Austria run on 100 % renewable electricity. While the ambitious expansion of hydroelectric power had created significant gains in the past, the lack of public acceptance saw the share of renewables stagnate to around 65 % in recent years.
Faced with an energy crisis, this is set to change. The government wants to empower Austria and its people to do their active part in driving forward climate and environmental protection.
Last year was a record year for solar PV installations in Austria, with some 1.3 Gigawatts of capacity being added.
“Now, with the Renewable Expansion Acceleration Act (EABG), we are delivering further extensive improvements for the approval of smaller plants,” explained Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler.
The new law would mean that small solar PV installations on existing buildings would no longer require a permit. State support for solar projects, which amounted to €395 million in 2022, will be increased to €600 million.
Permitting, a major bottleneck for renewables, will be cut short. This Austria wants to achieve by cutting down on environmental impact assessments. During the procedure, the green energy transition will be considered in the “special public interest,” and regular complaints will no longer cause a delay.
If a federal Austrian state fails to conduct spatial energy planning, impact assessments could start without municipalities designating the land fit for purpose – by running the two processes in parallel; permits should be sped up.
Lastly, the conservative-led government wants to boost biogas production. Often a by-product of animal or forestry waste, biogas is considered green. By 2030, Vienna wants production to increase tenfold to 10.5 Terawatt hours per year. Utilities will be forced to blend 11 % biogas into the gas they sell.