Strugl: We have to move quickly!


In the MorgenGespräch, the energy breakfast of VERBUND, VERBUND Chairman of the Executive Board Michael Strugl talked today, Thursday, with experts about the latest approaches of the “Easter Package” in Germany, which is intended to advance the expansion of renewables. The central question was about which aspects would also be suitable for Austria in order to be able to reach the domestic climate and energy targets by 2030 and 2040 respectively.

VERBUND is Austria’s leading business for the energy transition Michael Strugl refers to the comprehensive investment programme of VERBUND: “In the next 3 years, VERBUND will invest over 3 billion euros in the renewable energy future – in water, wind and sun. We want to invest more and could invest more if the conditions to do so are in place. There’s not much time left until 2030, so we have to move quickly to get the projects approved, implement them and get them up and running. In the energy industry, 2030 is actually already tomorrow.”

Michael Strugl sees long approval procedures and a lack of sites as the central obstacles to the rapid implementation of projects for the expansion of hydropower, wind and PV. He therefore finds a positive approach in the Easter Package, which stipulates that the renewables expansion is in the “overriding public interest and for public safety”: “A successful renewables expansion is about something very basic: the commitment to wanting to achieve the Paris climate targets. For Austria, I’d like that to be a clear “Yes”. It’s already too late for an Easter Package in 2022, but there’s enough time for an Austria Package – including the provision of sites.”


The analysis of the Easter Package by Tilman Schwencke, business unit manager for Strategy and Policy at Germany’s Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft e.V., is largely positive, although the association does highlight some areas where more can be done: “There will also have to be a summer and autumn package,” says Schwencke, referring to further upcoming packages of measures. The “overriding public interest” for the renewables expansion is also rated as a particularly important signal by the expert, but underscores the need for sites, which he describes as the “gold dust” of the renewables expansion: “If that doesn’t work then we won’t achieve the expansion in that way.” Not without noting that the expansion of sites must also be even better for PV plants.

Acceleration package

Martina Prechtl-Grundnig, managing director of the umbrella association Erneuerbare Energie Österreich (EEÖ), is also very much in favour of an Austrian “acceleration package”: the anchoring of the overriding public interest in the expansion of renewable energies, as was done in the German Easter Package and the REPowerEU package of the European Commission, marks an important milestone for a rapid energy transition. Following this example, priority should also be given to the renewables expansion in Austria, in order to help speed up approval procedures. The comprehensive designation of priority zones and equipping the authorities with the necessary means is also needed. An Austrian acceleration package for the renewables expansion must cover all technologies – wind, photovoltaics, small and large-scale hydropower, biomass and biogas. In interaction of everything, we accomplish the creation of independence and climate-neutrality in the energy supply.

Example of Burgenland

Burgenland state councillor Heinrich Dorner sees the province as already being one step ahead: “For many years, the importance of renewable energy has been emphasised at home and abroad. While people are still talking elsewhere, Burgenland took action a long time ago. We are European pioneers in the field of wind energy – and want to become one for solar energy, too. The Burgenland approach to implementing renewable energy projects is deemed best practice across Austria. In no other province can the procedures be processed in a similarly quick and conflict-free manner. However, the energy transition and the Ukraine war now require further efforts to accelerate renewable energy projects. A modified spatial planning law should give further impetus to a photovoltaic and wind power offensive. And, as before, the municipalities are involved, and all participating agencies such as, in particular, the Environmental Attorney, NGOs and conservation agencies are fully involved in the zoning process. In this way, we want to quickly wean ourselves off our dependence on Russian gas and oil. The highest priority is to become climate neutral, energy and price-independent by 2030.”

Importance of intact ecosystems

Thomas Alge, managing director of ÖKOBÜRO, refers to the importance of intact ecosystems: “According to the European Environment Agency, 80% of animal and plant species are in a ‘poor’ or ‘bad condition’. Destroyed ecosystems are accelerating the climate crisis. The existential crises of biodiversity and climate protection must therefore solved together. The solutions include reducing energy consumption quickly and substantially. Otherwise, all this will be for nothing. In order to get the energy transition in Austria moving quickly, we also need binding planning processes for suitability and exclusion zones before the approval procedures take place. In particular, that affects the federal provinces. The binding plans should be developed within the scope of a Strategic Environmental Check, with early involvement of the general public. This will free the UVP from questions of principle. Burgenland set a good example here with wind power and is now also doing the same with PV. The second major lever involves strengthening the provincial authorities by providing them with more resources for staffing, experts and management of the procedures.” 

The German Easter Package

The Easter Package of the coalition in Germany is a collection of legal measures intended to drive forward the expansion of renewable energies. It was debated in the Bundestag at the beginning of May. Alongside the basic position, the public interest in the expansion of renewables, which is also in the sense of public safety, Germany’s power supply should be 80 percent renewable by 2030 and almost exclusively renewable by 2035. The expansion will be advanced with the Easter Package, especially in the areas of wind and solar. In 2030, electricity generation from renewable energies should amount to 600 terawatt hours – it is currently almost 240 terawatt hours.

Ingun Metelko Ingun Metelko

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