Greens in Austria’s government to help 2030 100% renewables goal

Greens in Austria’s government to help 2030 100% renewables goal

A likely entry of the Green Party into Austria’s government as junior coalition partner to the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) is likely to help the Alpine country end a current stagnation of its wind power expansion and reach its 100% renewables target by 2030.

Designated Chancellor Sebastian Kurz from the ÖVP and Green Party leader Werner Kogler over the weekend said a success of months-long coalition talks is likely in the first days of 2020.

Kurz in September had called for snap elections after his previous government with the hard right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) came to a bizarre end after media leaked a video showing former FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache in an Ibiza holiday home offering lucrative public contracts in exchange for campaign support from a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch.

As a consequence of the “Ibiza scandal” the FPÖ fell to 16.2% of the vote (minus 9.8 percentage points), while the Greens (13.9%) and the ÖVP (37.5%) both booked considerable gains.

The Green’s wish for a much more active climate policy and Kurz’s intention to uphold large parts of his previous tough line on immigration according to Austrian media were the most contentious issues in closed-door coalition talks.

Those seem to have been resolved now, but Kurz and Kogler didn’t want to give details before a final agreement is reached.

Austria already during Kurz’s first chancellorship had decided to reach 100% of renewables in its power consumption by 2030, but the government hadn’t presented an awaited renewables expansion law to flesh out the target.

Contrary to the ambitious expansion target, a reduction in feed-in tariff support for new installations enacted in late 2015, coupled with a cap in overall renewables support, had led to a drastic slowdown in new wind installations in recent years that the Greens want to overcome.

Wind power in 2019 is likely to have met only 11% of Austria’s power consumption, and some 14% of the country’s electricity is being imported from neighbouring Germany and the Czech Republic – often generated from coal and nuclear plants there.

Austrian wind power association IG Windkraft thinks the wind power share could rise dramatically.

“Wind power could meet 26% of the national electricity supply by 2030 with a further expansion,” IG Windkraft head Stefan Moidl said.

“Renewable energies are ready, politics now must finally provide the adequate conditions. Whether politicians want to do that will also become clear with the result of coalition negotiations.”

Parliament under an interim government in September had amended the country’s renewables act to free up €164.1m ($183.8m) in additional support for renewables. That should help to reduce the amount of already permitted wind turbines with a joint capacity of serval hundred megawatts that are stuck in a waiting queue for support.

But it will not be enough. With the current legislation in place, Austria would reach its 100% renewable power target only in 2050, the country’s renewable energy federation (EEÖ) said. According to a recent EEÖ survey, 80% of Austrians are in favour of more support for renewables.

“The population wants renewables, and politics now must make that possible,” EEÖ managing director Florian Maringer said.

A Green Party convention on January 4 still needs to approve the coalition with the FPÖ, which is seen as likely.