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Overcapacities of fossil energy are a threat to climate protection, health and future competitiveness

Myth

The German Energiewende (energy transition) is responsible for high electricity imports to Austria.

Facts

Austria’s electricity imports reached a record level in 2015 (16.4% net import quota). Most of the imported electricity is generated in Germany (16.1 TWh) and the Czech Republic (12.3 TWh). There is not an overcapacity of renewable energy in the market, but too much coal and nuclear power still in place.

Rising electricity imports to Austria due to fossil energy overcapacities

Development of Austrian electricity trade balance

Source: Renewable Energy Association Austria based on E-Control 2016

Formerly an electricity exporting country (+12.3% in 1980), Austria now has become an importer of electricity with a relatively large share (-16.4% in 2015). A large potential for building new power capacities in Austria is hampered by specific regulations in the Austrian support regime for renewable energy and additional grid charges which are not levied for imported electricity. The main reason for overcapacities in export countries is not their renewable market development but the still-existing high shares of coal power (40% market share in Germany) and nuclear power (Czech Republic). Germany’s trade surplus was about 52 TWh in 2015. The lack of adequate instruments to burden CO2-intensive energy sources in terms of reflecting external cost is the main reason for this trend. The electricity mix in the Czech Republic is based on 33% nuclear energy and over 50% coal. The often-used term “free from nuclear energy” for Austria’s electricity use can therefore be called into question. Very cheap certificates for hydro power generated in Norway and Sweden are often used to legitimise electricity imports to end consumers and regulators.  

Aside from the climate threat, health issues are underestimated in the energy debate, especially when talking about coal power. According to an IEA Special Report, 6.5 million global deaths are  connected to low air quality as a result of fossil energy use.