Austria’s last coal-fired power plant has ceased operation

4/17/2020Mellach

The era of coal-fired electricity generation in Austria came to an end with the cessation of coal-fired operations at the district heating plant in Mellach (Styria). Upon expiry of the heat supply contract at the end of the heating season, VERBUND followed up on its earlier announcement and permanently ceased coal-fired operations at the district heating plant in Mellach, to the south of Graz. The district heating plant in Mellach was the last coal-fired power plant in Austria to generate electricity and heat using coal as the fuel.

“The closure of the last coal-fired power plant is a historic step: Austria is finally moving away from the generation of electricity with coal and taking another step away from the use of fossil energies. We will switch Austria over to 100 percent green electricity by 2030. The energy system is being converted cleanly, affordably and above all safely. That will also bring us economic independence: We currently spend ten billion euros on importing coal, oil and gas. I am pleased that VERBUND is showing us what we can achieve by moving away from coal, by creating a clean future together,” says climate protection minister Leonore Gewessler.

“We have reached a big milestone today: Austria has moved a step closer towards climate neutrality. The economy is thus once again showing itself to be a strong partner in the fight against climate change. Because we have set ourselves an ambitious goal, which we will only be able to reach if everyone pulls together. By closing its last coal-fired power plant, Austria is pointing the way to a sustainable future and will become a model for others in Europe. Converting the location into an innovation site is a good example of how we can move away from the world of fossil energy towards an innovative and renewable future,” says secretary of state at the Ministry of the Environment Magnus Brunner.

“Coal-fired power generation in Austria is history. The future belongs to renewable energies and VERBUND will also make an important contribution to the 100 percent green electricity target in the coming years,” says VERBUND CEO Wolfgang Anzengruber. The last coal-fired power plant produced electricity and heat for the Styrian provincial capital Graz for 34 years and can in future be used for short periods with natural gas as a fuel to support the national electricity grid “On the way from the old to the new economy, Mellach remains an important location for us, one that offers ideal conditions for the development of future technologies.”

Location for the energy future

Mellach, centrally located to the south of Graz and connected via road, rail and grid, will be developed into an innovation hub: Hotflex, a pilot system for high-temperature electrolysis and fuel cell operation, has been installed and will convert electricity into hydrogen. Large-scale battery banks are also being tested at the location for use as a buffer store, e.g. for ultra-fast charging stations for e-mobility.

VERBUND has completed exited coal-fired electricity generation with the cessation of coal-fired operations at the district heating plant in Mellach. In the past 15 years, all coal-fired power plant units, such as those in Dürnrohr, Voitsberg, Zeltweg and St. Andrä, have been decommissioned. The even older oil-fired power plants, such as those in Neudorf-Werndorf or Pernegg, have been or are being demolished and turned into “green meadows”.

History of the Mellach power plant
The district heating plant was built between 1983 and 1986 and was able to generate 240 megawatts of electricity a well as up to 230 megawatts of thermal energy as district heating, mainly for the Greater Graz region. Since its initial operation in December 1986, the boilers and steam turbines were in operation for a total of about 180,000 hours. The district heating plant supplied about 80% of the total district heating requirement in Graz for 34 years. The reliable supply of heat from Mellach formed the basis for the accelerated expansion of district heating supplies in and to the south of Graz, which led to a significant decrease in the emissions of individual heating systems in the region around the Styrian provincial capital.

Until recently, the district heating plant in Mellach was operated as a highly efficient power plant with state-of-the-art flue gas treatment and generated more than 30 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 20 billion kilowatt hours of district heat over 34 years of operation. VERBUND will keep the power plant operationally ready for the requirements of so-called bottleneck avoidance, using natural gas as a fuel. The power plant can therefore be briefly called upon as required to support the national electricity grid. The neighbouring gas-fired combined cycle power plant in Mellach is also regularly used in this function.
Ingun Metelko Ingun Metelko

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