We provide Vienna with a secure supply of electricity and heating

Securely supplying people in Austria with electricity must always be the number one priority of any energy policy. Austria enjoys a leading international position here, achieving 99.99 percent security of supply. This is not only important for the general population as a whole, but also represents a major benefit for businesses based here. Any interruptions to the security of supply translate into enormous costs of up to EUR 1.2 billion per day. It is also Wien Energie’s utmost priority to ensure the secure supply of electricity and heating, which is why we will invest EUR 380 million in measures to ensure security of supply by 2023.

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Background information

Electricity generation and consumption must be balanced at all times in order to ensure stability in the electricity grid. As such, the aim of the #mission2030 strategy to supply all electricity from renewable sources means that there must be sufficient compensatory and balancing energy capacities in place to handle supply fluctuations inherent in renewable sources. If this is not the case, this may lead to interruptions in supply, causing major economic damage.

Large gaps in supply are a real prospect over the winter months when producing almost all electricity from renewable sources, amounting to as much as 6,000 MW over several days according to calculations by the Austrian Energy Agency (AEA). This is almost three times as much as the output of all power plants located on the Danube in Austria (2,234 MW). The most efficient and cost-effective way to plug these gaps is to use highly efficient cogeneration plants. Battery or pumped-storage facilities are unable to bridge supply gaps of this size and duration. Spikes in demand can be even higher.

Highly efficient cogeneration plants ensure security of supply for both heating and electricity. The combined generation of electricity and heating also saves primary energy and, by extension, CO2. The number of times cogeneration plants were used to stabilise the network has increased ten-fold over the past few years. In the hot month of August 2018 alone, Wien Energie’s cogeneration plants were activated 45 times by the Austrian transmission grid operator Austrian Power Grid (APG) to stabilise the electricity grid. What was originally a measure of last resort has now become the standard approach.

A larger number of thermal power plants in Austria will come to the end of their service life in the medium term. On top of this, highly efficient cogeneration plants are being forced out of the market by the distortions on the electricity market, despite the fact that these are the most efficient way to securely integrate renewables into the electricity system. Operators of cogeneration plants in Austria are also at a considerable disadvantage compared with other countries that support cogeneration plants. Given that it takes about seven years from time of deciding to make the investment to commission new plants, it is necessary to create the framework conditions for investments today.

In order to avoid gaps in supply in case of grid fluctuations, APG is responsible (as the control area manager) for ensuring that sufficient balancing energy is available at all times, which is why APG has already concluded three-year contracts with a number of power plant operators in order to be able to call up power plant capacity. The short duration of the contracts and the associated lack of planning certainty mean that it is not possible for any energy company to make meaningful investment decisions.

We hold the view that it is irresponsible to rely on imports to safeguard security of supply. The same challenges are faced by each and every country in Europe here. During the cold winter of 2017, when the supply situation in Austria was strained, for example, only Germany and the Czech Republic were in the position to export electricity. However, Germany is planning for a shortfall of between six and nearly 30 TWh in contrast to a current export surplus of about 50 TWh. The Czech Republic also plans to reduce its exports from 20 TWh today to 3 TWh in 2030. This is clear evidence of the fact that the challenge of supply security within Austria must be solved.

Our demands

In order to safeguard security of supply over the long term, framework conditions must be created that allow highly efficient cogeneration plants to be operated and investments in new capacities to be made.

Operating subsidies should be available for highly efficient cogeneration plants in order to shore up the existing facilities. Furthermore, framework conditions should be created for new plants which, following the example of Germany, would enable new investments to be made in cogeneration plants. All such plants can also be run on green gas in the future.

The most important aspect here is that the contracts have long terms. These contracts should also be tendered in a technologically neutral way and based on cost and energy efficiency criteria. However, priority should be given to production plants using renewable energy sources as well as more efficient plants. In the case of cogeneration plants, security of supply for district heating must also be taken into account.

E-CONTROL

“There must be a system in place to safeguard power plant output. Such power plants are unable to fund themselves through large volumes of energy; instead providing such output as a safety net must be properly compensated.”

Andreas Eigenbauer, Executive Director of E-Control Austria

Further information

Your contact person

Tobias Rieder
Tobias Rieder

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