Energiewende – “Must rely on innovation”

The Renewable Expansion Law (EAG) has been in place since Thursday. It is intended to regulate the framework conditions in order to supply all of Austria’s electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030. But it is also a location and an innovation package, said Magnus Brunner (ÖVP) at the presentation. One billion in funding is expected to trigger three billion in investments annually. Ecological and economic crisis management in one, according to the Secretary of State for Energy in the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection (BMK).

“Wiener Zeitung”: There will be a separate package for green gas, which the ÖVP originally wanted to see regulated in the EAG. What does this mean for the industry?

Magnus Brunner: The subject of gas is already included. The support for biogas plants is inside and has been improved. And the subject of hydrogen is also included. Where we have to continue our talks is the infrastructure area, i.e. the stop of line expansion or the fact that gas connections may no longer be built in new buildings from 2025 onwards. We’ll negotiate that.

Do consumers have to be prepared for the fact that gas can no longer be used for heating in the long term?

There will have to be alternative tests. There will be no changes to existing gas heating systems, it is only about the new building – and even there only if there is an alternative to gas heating, such as district heating.

One billion euros a year are earmarked for financing the measures until 2030. At the same time, a lot of research and innovation is still needed. Is that possible?

We have to do a lot of research and focus on innovation. Today we only know 30 percent of the technologies that we will need in the future. With the current technological possibilities, we will not achieve the 2030 goals, but also the 2040 goal of climate neutrality. With hydrogen in the package, we have taken a step here. That is exactly one of the future technologies that we have to support. We have earmarked 500 million euros for this over the next ten years. But there will also have to be other measures that we will present in the hydrogen strategy.

However, consumers should not be burdened too much when it comes to the price of electricity. It is currently assumed that prices will increase by around 20 euros per year per average household …

We have to keep an eye on the cost burden for consumers and for the economy, hence the cap of one billion euros. That is considerably more than now, but the expansion of renewables also depends on other factors, such as the development of the electricity price. The higher the electricity price, the less funding is required.

90 percent of the hydrogen that is produced today is produced using natural gas. But that has to be a thing of the past, right?

Of course, the goal is absolutely green hydrogen from renewable energy. Today we are just not able to produce 100 percent green hydrogen. Nevertheless, we have to rely on this technology in order not to oversleep the development here and to be among the first. Neighboring countries such as Germany, but also the EU Commission, rely heavily on the topic.

In which areas do you see the use of hydrogen?

Hydrogen is an all-rounder. In the industry, Voest and Infineon are pioneers and are already converting their production. In the area of ​​storage, we need other storage options in addition to the large pumped storage power plants. And in the area of ​​mobility. There, more for long distances and heavy haulage, less so in individual transport in urban areas.

The service life of systems improves and they become more efficient. But what about the waste, the batteries, magnets, the insulating materials – what hazardous waste and costs will we have to face in the long term?

This is a global issue. The industry has really come a step further. The CO2-Footprint in an electric car is much smaller today than it was a few years ago. When it comes to lithium degradation and lifespan, the industry has worked extremely hard. But yes, this is an issue where we have to keep improving.

How high will the CO2-Savings will be with this bill until 2030?

According to calculations by the BMK, the EAG will save around one million tonnes of CO2 expected per year. This effect arises purely from the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. However, further savings can also be expected through measures in the area of ​​mobility and heating.

With renewables, one also wants to become more independent in Europe. But aren’t there new dependencies with the raw materials that are needed for the technology and that are mainly mined in China?

We have to look to the world that the CO2-Footprint gets better. If we produce 100 percent green electricity in 2030, then we will have become less dependent on fossil fuels, but as far as raw materials are concerned, we have to look around the world to see that we are CO2-Be more neutral. The trend is clear internationally, however, which has meanwhile become a location and a competitive topic – also in China.

At a CO2– Pricing has also been in the works for a long time. When can we expect results there?

That is a completely different topic. The EAG is about a new funding system for green electricity. The eco-social tax reform is being negotiated between Minister Gewessler and Finance Minister Blümel. There is a task force that meets on this. But this is a bigger project.

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