Efficient and sustainable energy supplies are crucial to the quality of life of future generations. Oil, gas and coal are finite resources, so we need to be careful how we use them. And that is why we are working for a regulatory framework that promotes the efficient use of resources.
Sustainable energy supplies depend on reduced energy consumption and increased use of new technologies. Merely pouring money into green electricity generation cannot keep up with rampant energy demand growth. Cutting energy demand will be a much tougher task than handing out subsidies for renewables, since energy is the lifeblood of every sector of the economy. Reducing energy consumption will mean fundamental rethinking of current trends and developments.
Moving fast to improve energy efficiency — because every day counts
The economic growth of the past few decades, and the related gains in income and welfare have had a massive impact on energy use. Austrian energy consumption has risen by 36 % since 1990, while CO2 emissions have climbed by 15% over the same period. Meanwhile increased use of renewable energy sources has made up for only 27 % of energy demand growth. These trends run counter to international policy goals such as those of Kyoto or the latest draft EU Directive. Hitting these targets will demand a huge increase in energy efficiency at national level.
E-Control began working on pinpointing the most effective policies for increasing energy efficiency and mechanisms for monitoring progress in January 2008.
In order to coordinate existing efforts to identify efficiency potentials at national level and wider liaison, E-Control was mandated with drawing up a green paper on energy efficiency by a cabinet decision of 23 January 2008. The process of preparing this policy document was accompanied by a public consultation. Major issues addressed by the green paper were discussed with interested organisations, associations, the social partners, companies and others, and the responses incorporated in the text. The final version of the green paper, unveiled on 13 October 2008, includes proposals for policies and implementation mechanisms aimed at increasing energy efficiency over the period up to 2020.
The report contains 22 core energy efficiency measures and policy instruments tailored to given sectors. It is estimated that the implementation of the proposals would reduce energy consumption by 23% or 252 PJ up to 2020, as compared to the baseline trend.
Smart metering — the key to informed choices
The past few years have seen major advances in metering technology, driven by new developments in IT. These have opened the way for a move from conventional Ferraris disc meters to digital, remotely readable “smart meters”. These devices provide consumers with precise information on their consumption behaviour, and thus enable them to change it. E-Control welcomes this progress and therefore included intelligent, digital, remotely readable electricity meters in the System Charges (Amendment) Order 2009.
Our recommendation — efficient subsidies for renewable energy
The Ökostromgesetz-Novelle 2008 (Green Electricity [Amendment] Act 2008) paved the way for continued financial support for renewable electricity and redetermination of the feed-in tariffs, and extended the guaranteed support period to up to 20 years from plant commissioning.
The new legislation gets its priorities right. Hydropower stations need only modest, one-time subsidies in the form of investment grants. Wind power also requires lower subsidies than the costly feedstock-dependent facilities, provided that the sites are chosen sensibly. New biomass plants could pose similar problems to those encountered with today’s biogas plants. Unlimited subsidies lead to plants that depend on heavy subsidies throughout their operating life, and would be shut down if the money stopped.
While the fact that this money goes to expanding renewable electricity generation is laudable as such, without a clear set of priorities it will not be well spent. New power generation and energy conversion technologies need to be carefully evaluated in terms of their commercial maturity and development potential. Where they employ inputs such as wood or agricultural products the test should be whether this is the best use of the raw materials concerned.