Project Description

Our vision for a CO2-free Vienna

A massive reduction in CO2 (‘decarbonisation’) is required in order to achieve the Paris climate targets, with the growing cities of Europe playing a key role here. Together with Navigant, a Guidehouse company, Wien Energie investigated the question of whether and how the Greater Vienna metropolitan area can be decarbonised by 2050. To ensure that Vienna continues to be the most liveable city in the world, investments must be made today in projects to decarbonise transport, heat and electricity.

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Study results

The core finding of the study is that decarbonisation is theoretically feasible by 2050 if the right conditions are created. The transport and heating revolution offer the greatest potential here to reduce dependency on CO2, which means that decarbonising the energy system must involve much more than simply switching to renewable electricity. In order to achieve a massive reduction in CO2 emissions, there is an urgent need to cut end energy consumption by a substantial amount. Moreover, the electricity, heating and transport systems must be fully transitioned to renewable energy sources.

The use of renewable energy sources must be substantially increased, with photovoltaic systems on buildings as well as free-standing ones being particularly significant in Vienna. The wind and hydropower potential latent in Austria also needs to be fully tapped whenever environmentally practical. Storage technologies and demand-side management must be given a considerable boost in order to compensate for network peaks. Highly efficient cogeneration plants must continue to be used so that security of supply can be guaranteed in an efficient way; these will be gradually converted to use synthetic gases instead of natural gas from 2025.

There must be a fundamental shift away from motorised individual transport to greater use of public transport, bicycles and footpaths in order for the mobility of the future to be truly sustainable. Trucks will use renewable fuels (e.g. hydrogen). What passenger cars and light commercial vehicles remain must be fully converted to electrical drive systems by 2050. Wien Energie will create a comprehensive base network of charging stations with the construction of 1,000 publicly available e-charging points by 2020, meaning that nowhere in the city of Vienna will be more than 400 metres away from a charging point.

End energy consumption when it comes to buildings must be reduced in order for it to be possible to fully switch to renewable energies at all. District heating, with the increased use of geothermal energy and large-scale heat pumps, is the most important and cost-effective approach here. Where district heating is not possible, work to expand the use of decentralised heat generation by means of heat pumps and low-temperature networks must be accelerated. Central and decentralised heat generators run using green gas, including the gas grid, will still be needed in 2050 to cover peak demand on cold winter days.

Necessary framework

In order to turn the vision of a CO2-free Vienna into a reality, considerable effort is required on the part of all players involved as well as the wider society.

  • Efficient system of grants (e.g. a combination of market premiums and investment grants for technology-specific characteristics) to promote the expansion of photovoltaics, wind and hydropower.
  • A clear commitment to expanding PV systems, particularly large-scale, free-standing systems.
  • Safeguarding security of supply with highly efficient cogeneration plants
  • A clear framework and financial support for storage facilities
  • Development of a concept for accelerating the wide-scale rollout of e-mobility
  • Regulatory changes and financial incentives to facilitate the expansion of the private charging infrastructure
  • A system of incentives for alternative fuels for trucks, including funding for the necessary infrastructure, e.g. renewable gases remain exempt from fuel duty and natural gas levy
  • A system of incentives for rapidly expanding the district heating grid
  • Investment incentives and research grants for exploiting geothermal potential
  • A system of incentives for accelerating the expansion of decentralised heat pumps
  • The promotion of innovative green gas projects to cover peak load demand
  • Safeguarding existing highly efficient cogeneration plants required to supply heat and system stability which can be fired with renewable gas in the medium term

Necessary investments

The total amount of investment required by the economy as a whole for the decarbonisation scenario is approximately EUR 28 billion.

The greatest level of investment is needed in the heating sector, totalling EUR 13 billion. Using green gas costs EUR 8 billion. A further six billion is needed to decarbonise the electricity sector. The transport sector needs the least amount of investment at two billion euros, resulting in a total of EUR 29 billion.

  • In the electricity sector, there will not be much need for wind power and hydropower to be subsidised in the future as electricity prices rise. Photovoltaics, especially on a large scale, is also proving to be increasingly economical.
  • In the transport sector, start-up financing will be needed for e-mobility, yet this will become capable of supporting itself in the long term.
  • In the heating sector, district heating is the most cost-effective means here to aid in the decarbonisation process. It is ten times more expensive to use hydrogen. Buildings that are renovated for structural reasons must also be renovated to improve their energy efficiency. Any renovation work going over and beyond this is a much more costly undertaking. Biogas has costs on a par with the conversion to heat pumps when it comes to apartment buildings yet, when compared with hydrogen and building renovation, biogas is a much cheaper option.