Power labelling and disclosure

"Electricity comes out of the socket and has no label" – how are consumers supposed to know the share of their electricity produced from renewable energy sources?

In Austria suppliers have been obliged to disclose the mix of primary energy sources used to generate power since 2001. The amounts of CO2 emissions and radioactive waste produced in the process of electricity generation must be stated on electricity bills and on promotional marterial subject to labelling.

E-Control is entrusted with monitoring electricity labelling. On an annual basis, it conducts a comprehensive review of all suppliers supplying electricity to consumers in Austria. The results of this evaluation as well as a presentation of the current framwork are presented in its annual labelling report (German only).

The Austrian labelling model is an evidence-based system. Electricity traders and suppliers have to present legal evidence for their primary energy mix. If they cannot present evidence for a certain amount of electricity, this amount has to be classified as "electricity of unknown origin - ENTSO-E mix" (until June 2009 UCTE mix), a statistical value.

Electricity labelling is managed mainly via the Austrian Guarantees of Origin database (GO database), which covers the entire life cylce of a guarantee of origin (GO) (issuing - transfer - redeeming). By choosing this evidence-based approach and the management via a central Austrian database, Austria has installed an extremely transparent and reliable system which virtually excludes fraud such as double issue or double redeeming. Electricity disclosure on the annual bill of consumers should contain the information provided in figure 1 (data example).

Disclosing the environmental impact of electricity generation

According to the 2006 amendment of the Austrian Electricity Act, certain environmental impacts of electricity generation must be disclosed since 1 January 2007: the CO2 emissions and radioactive waste produced along with the total amount of electricity delivered to consumers in the period under consideration must be stated in g/kWh on electricity bills and promotional material.

The environmental impact depends on the energy sources and generation technologies used. For example, biomass captures exactly the same quantity of CO2 when growing as it releases during energy production, so it is considered a carbon neutral energy source (i.e. with an emission value of 0 g/kWh of electricity). The higher the efficiency of the generation process (energy output relative to energy inputs) and the lower the ratio of carbon to hydrogen contained in the energy source, the lower emissions from fossil fuels (natural gas, oil and coal) will be. In other words, an efficient power station causes lower emissions than an inefficient one.

The estimated environmental impacts of the various energy sources are shown in the table below.

Typical environmental impacts of energy sources (g/kWh)
primary energy source CO2 emissions radioactive waste
solid or liquid biomass 0 0
biogas 0 0
landfill and sewage gas 0 0
geothermal energy 0 0
wind power 0 0
solar power 0 0
hydropower 0 0
natural gas 1) 440 0
oil and oil derivatives 2) 645 0
coal 2) 882 0
nuclear energy 0 0,0027
other 2) 650 0
electricity of unknown origin 3)    
ENTSO-E mix hydropower share 0 0
ENTSO-E mix renewables share 0 0
ENTSO-E mix fossil fuels share 840 0
ENTSO-E mix nuclear energy share 0 0,0027
ENTSO-E mix share of other sources 840 0

Last updated: March 2011; sources: European Commission, An Energy Policy for Europe, 2007; E-Control; Association of German electricity producers VDEW