On 17 April, Austria started its first federal incentive programme for solar water heating in the residential sector. This means that the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund now supports new private solar thermal installations with EUR 400 per system if the collector area is 5 m² or more. The total budget of the programme is EUR 5 million. It will run until 31 December 2012.
Photo: Austria Solar/Sonnenkraft Vertriebs GmbH
According to Roger Hackstock from Austria Solar, the new programme is the successful result of the combined efforts of his association together with ProPellets Austria, the Austrian biomass association, and the umbrella organisation Erneuerbare Energie Österreich (meaning: Renewable Energy Austria). Both organisations had criticised in the past that only a small share of the almost EUR 150 million budget of the Climate and Energy Fund had been allocated to programmes in the heating sector. Actually, there have only been two so far: the 2011 programme for large-scale solar systems with a budget of EUR 5 million (see http://www.solarthermalworld.org/node/2874) and the programme for energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings with a budget of EUR 3 million. Until now, the Climate and Energy Fund had mainly funded projects in the areas of mobility, photovoltaics and research. “The Climate and Energy Fund has to face the reality of renewable energies providing two thirds of our electricity, but only one third of our heat. We have done a lot for electricity, now we need to do something about heat,” Hackstock says. Although traditionally, Austria has had a strong solar thermal market, 2011 was not a good year for the sector. An estimate of Austria Solar members, which represent 80 % of the market, shows numbers have fallen 16 % compared to 2011.
Besides the EUR 5 million for solar thermal, the new 2012 programme also includes EUR 5 million to replace oil boilers. Everyone changing his oil boiler to a pellet or wood chip one can now receive a EUR 1,000 subsidy for it. It is even possible to combine the subsidies for solar and wood boilers to reach an incentive of, all in all, EUR 1,400. The programme’s funds, however, are not granted for installations in newly built homes or gas boiler replacements. “The focus is on oil heating, because replacing the 800,000 oil boilers in Austria will have the greatest effect on greenhouse gases and energy autonomy,” explains Hackstock. In addition to the new incentive programme, the associations had proposed an awareness campaign for solar and wood heating, but the idea was dismissed later on. It was not the only thing not turning out as expected: The budget, too, was lower than had been proposed. The associations had asked for EUR 25 million.
The incentives offered by the new programme can be combined with state and community subsidies. Most of the Austrian states have their own incentive programmes for solar thermal (see the website of Austria Solar for details: http://www.solarwaerme.at/EFH/Foerderungen/). On the federal level, companies can apply for the large-scale system programme by the Climate and Energy Fund and for grants by Austrian bank Kommunalkredit Austria AG, which has been concentrating its activities in the fields of social infrastructure, energy, environment and transport to achieve “sustainable success”.
This text was written by Eva Augsten, a German freelance journalist specialised in renewable energies ( Augsten(@)solrico.com ).