Austria not only scores points thanks to its unspoiled nature and beautiful landscapes, from the Alpine panorama to steppe lakes. The country is also a role model when it comes to environmental protection. Whether solar energy, wind power or electromobility, Austria boasts a highly development industry in the field of environmental technology and renewable energy.
At present, the country is doing everything it can to achieve the European targets and cover at least 34 percent of total gross final energy consumption from renewable energy sources. Austria’s scorecard with renewable energy generating 32.5 percent of energy consumption in 2018 demonstrates that the country is on the right path. 72 percent of electricity is already derived from renewable sources. In this regard Austria is already a trailblazer in Europe today, which in part is due to the positive attitude of the population towards renewable energies. About 40 percent of Austrian households use renewable energies in their everyday lives thanks to the installed technologies. However, companies in Austria make the biggest contribution. They are the true pioneers in water and waste management, when it comes to technologies for generating bioenergy as well as in future-oriented areas such as sustainable construction, ultralight vehicles and networked cities. For these reasons, the Alpine Republic is ranked among the top ten in numerous international environmental rankings. One example is the Environmental Performance Index 2018 of Yale & Columbia Universities, in which Austria is rated eighth among 178 nations.
Hydropower is Austria’s top energy source
Hydropower is the most important economic sector for renewable energies in Austria. Austria is among the leaders in international comparison, with hydropower accounting for about 60 percent of total power production. In contrast, the global average is 16 percent. The Alpine Republic has built up an internationally sought-after expertise in the planning, construction and operation of hydroelectric power plants thanks to its 150 large and more than 3,000 small hydropower plants. The country is a leader in the manufacturing, installation and maintenance of plant components.
Austrian expertise is in demand worldwide
The share of over 45 percent biomass makes it the second most important renewable energy source. In particular, Austria is the technological leader for small biomass combustion systems and marketable combined heat and power generation plants. The export rate is 70 percent. Austrian producers account for two-thirds of all biomass furnaces in Germany alone. Furthermore, Austria ranks high both with respect to wind power plants as well as solar thermal energy. The country also ranks among the biggest exporters in both areas. On balance, Austrian know-how in the fields of energy and environmental technology is in demand across the globe. An impressive twelve percent of Austrian environmental technology companies are global market leaders or market leaders in the EU. A good two-thirds of revenue is generated in foreign markets.
Diverse funding programs for the environmental industry
The development of eco-innovations is being supported in Austria more than ever before, for example by means of broad-based research funding. Customized R&D funding programs of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG, Austria Wirtschaftsservice (aws) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) are available to companies carrying out research. The Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism also provides funding, for example via its “klima:aktiv“ program. Moreover, the “Sustainable Development” impulse program of the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology also has an attractive funding offering focusing on the field of energy efficiency.
Last but not least, tax advantages create a research-friendly environment. At the beginning of 2018, Austria once again increased the research tax credit for research expenditures relating to in-house R&D as well as contract research to fourteen percent. This already serves as an innovation turbocharger for companies in the environmental technology sector.
Austria actively takes part in the energy future
The Austrian government has resolved to implement its own climate and energy strategy because it wants to further promote this future-oriented industry in addition to the European guidelines contained in “#Mission 2030“. The goal is to further develop the energy system by the year 2050 and transform it into a modern and resource-saving energy supply. The share of renewable energy as a proportion of total gross final energy consumption is to be increased from 45 to 50 percent by the year 2030. 100 percent of total national electricity consumption (national balance) is to be covered by renewable energy sources. The core component of the strategy consists of twelve flagship projects defined by specific measures, from efficient freight transport logistics, increasing rail-bound public transport and an e-mobility offensive to thermal building renovation and renewable heat. These measures will enable a complete conversion from heating based on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Austria shows that important technological impetus to protect the environment and enhance the quality of life for people is not a question of size. Targeted research and business promotion measures combined with a strong vision and the individual commitment of passionate people can make a difference and actively shape the future.