Environmental protection organisations and VERBUND call for nationwide master plan for expansion of photovoltaics
The environmental organisations WWF, GLOBAL 2000 and ÖKOBÜRO are calling for a massive eco-friendly expansion of photovoltaics in Austria in a joint consensus paper co-authored with VERBUND.
Photovoltaics will play an important role in achieving the climate and energy targets in the area of power generation. On the basis of the Austrian climate strategy, an additional 11 TWh or so should come from PV facilities by 2030. Therefore, several environmental organisations and VERBUND are now calling for a “nationwide master plan for photovoltaics” as a binding standard for the spatial planning and zoning carried out by the federal provinces and municipalities. This standard is to regulate the expansion targets of the federal government and the federal provinces in a binding and eco-friendly way as well as to harmonise the various regulations.
“We need a master plan for the energy transition,” says Michael Strugl, CEO VERBUND. “Installing outdoor PV systems quickly and in the most suitable locations will require good advance planning, clear criteria and efficient approval procedures.”
Solar power requirement for new buildings
Within the scope of the consensus paper, WWF Austria is calling for the mandatory use of solar energy in all new buildings and extensive refurbishments as well as in existing built-up areas. “We have to massively expand photovoltaics in order to reach the climate targets. The best-possible solution for this is to install these systems on roofs and in built-up areas. The potential for this is huge because Austria currently exploits only a small percentage of the total solar power potential,” says WWF energy spokesperson Karl Schellmann. For the planned use of outdoor areas, suitability and exclusion zones would need to be anchored in accordance with applicable nationwide nature conservation criteria.
“The federal government has set itself the goal of generating electricity in Austria entirely from renewable forms of energy by 2030. In order for this to really work, we all have to exploit eco-friendly potentials for renewable energy generation. It is obvious that existing built-up areas can be ideally used for this. However, the dual use of agricultural areas – i.e. Agri PV – provides an opportunity to combine the energy transition with our agricultural activities,” says Viktoria Auer, climate and energy spokesperson of GLOBAL 2000. If PV systems are to be installed on agricultural land then dual use should be a prerequisite for funding.
A clear framework and zoning for nature conservation are also important for environmental organisations and VERBUND. For this reason, outdoor areas in national parks and wilderness areas as well as in nature conservation areas (as defined in provincial laws) should be excluded from the development plans. There should also be consultation areas like Natura 2000 or UNESCO biosphere parks, where PV systems could be installed in small areas following an eco-friendliness check. At the same time, there should also be suitability zones that are deemed suitable for outdoor systems in accordance with standardised national criteria (e.g. network, environmental and nature conservation criteria). Areas there should be set aside for PV to the extent that the federal government’s targets can be achieved together with expansion on roofs and in built-up areas.
“In order to achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2040, we will have to exploit all potentials for the expansion of renewable energies,” says Michael Strugl, CEO VERBUND. “With surface PV, Agri PV, systems on industrial and trade facilities as well as private property, photovoltaics provide a wide range of applications and ways to join in. VERBUND is currently testing the agricultural additional use of PV systems through grazing: at the Drava power plant in Ludmannsdorf/Bilčovs in Carinthia’s Rosental valley, solar power is harvested on an area of 2.5 hectares and fed directly into the Austrian transmission network with a peak output of 1.3 megawatts, while a flock of sheep grazes here.
A simultaneous, balanced as well as eco-friendly expansion of PV is required from the perspective of the environmental organisations and VERBUND in order to ensure diversity both in the facility mix and in regional distribution, and to achieve maximum acceptance among the population.
A clear framework accelerates implementation and raises acceptance
A well planned and structured approach will be decisive. “Clarification of basic questions at strategic level eases the burden on the procedures at project level, the testing effort of authorities and municipalities reduces and the planning certainty of project applicants is increased,” says Lisa Weinberger of ÖKOBÜRO. Early involvement of the general public can also generate understanding for the necessary expansion and the related challenges, which raises acceptance of PV systems. Approval procedures should be strengthened through the harmonisation of procedures, a standardised guideline on the state of the art in the implementation of PV systems, transparent traceability of the criteria and evaluations as well as sufficient staffing levels at the authorities and courts, which includes the presence of experts.