Will Austria become an import country for electric power?


Austria risks of becoming within the next ten years an import country for electric power. If the EU Water Framework Directive and the Kyoto Target are rigidly implemented in 2010 more than one-third of the energy for domestic consumption must be imported.

Dipl.-Ing. Hans Haider, chairman of the board of directors of the VERBUND, presented this scenario yesterday, Thursday evening, on the occasion of this year’s 3rd Research Forum of Austria’s leading electricity provider. At present, imports and exports are still balanced according to the average calculated over several years, while only ten years ago Austria was a classical export country for electric power.

According to Haider reasons for this development can be seen in the fact that the production of ecological energy cannot even nearly compensate for the expected increase in consumption of electricity as well as for the decrease in waterpower and caloric energy production. It is at present hard to imagine that Austria will newly construct sufficient power plant capacity.

Haider appealed again to the decision-makers in politics and industry to keep their sense of proportion when implementing European directives in the Austrian legal system and not to lose sight of securing the electric power supply in Austria using its main source: waterpower.

Haider, who is also president of EURELECTRIC, the interest group of the European electricity industry, stated that this was similar for all European countries. Until 2030, Europe will need a total of 600,000 Megawatt of new power plant capacity in order to replace out-dated power plants and satisfy the increasing demand for electric power. Sustainable energy carriers can only make a small contribution. Hence, according to Haider, it is only reasonable to keep all options open regarding potential energy carriers.

The EU Water Framework Directive signifies for Austria’s waterpower an average production loss of 5 to 15 %, and even more in single facilities, added Herbert Schröfelbauer, chairman of the board of directors of the VERBUND-Austrian Hydro Power AG. The expected wind-energy boom will not be able to compensate for the loss.

According to Schröfelbauer the consumption of electricity is simultaneously increasing by 2 to 3 % every year; in the first half-year of 2003 the increase rate was even 4.2 %. Austria risks to change from being an exporter of clean waterpower to becoming an importer of electric power originating from sources that cannot be called environmentally friendly.

In the setting of the Research Forum the VERBUND-VERENA-Förderpreis of the foundation ”100 Jahre Elektrizitätswirtschaft” (100 Years Electric Power Industry) was awarded. Three graduates from Austrian Universities share the amount of EUR 14,000: Johann Wurzenberger, Thomas Faber and Johannes Rath. An additional prize for innovation goes to Rebecca Beer.