Trends and innovations in Austria’s energy future

Austria’s energy industry will see many new challenges in the future in the face of both national and global unstoppable emerging disruptive trends impacting the sector.

In this context, the Council’s Austrian Young Energy Professionals recently presented the results of their working group 2 paper, ‘Austria Energy Future: Trends and innovations’, at an energy forum organised by the Styrian energy company, Energie Steiermark AG, last month.

The event, held on 20 September, was attended by a number of decision makers from the world of business and politics. Topics presented by the groups keynote speaker, Johannes Wall, Graz University of Technology; ranged from the impact of climate change on energy production and consumption to smart cities and smart grids.

The paper presents new ideas and concepts that are potentially groundbreaking for international energy companies and thus give the Austrian energy industry a competitive advantage. The effects of climate change on Austria’s energy industry are examined, the building sector and the future energy supply are scrutinized, and finally the challenges for Austria’s energy supply companies are presented.

One major challenge identified by the group is the integration of renewable energy into the existing energy mix. They argued production of renewable energy can be highly volatile and, with its increasing share of the energy mix, strongly influences the existing energy infrastructure.

As a consequence, a current issue deriving from this, is the need for ever larger energy storage devices and a more flexible distribution and production network. It was highlighted that water and gas storage as well as flexible power plants must be expanded and integrated into the energy infrastructure.

The group also agreed that energy distribution must become even more flexible in order to be able to react to peak loads and bottlenecks in the most effective way. An important step in this direction is that primary energy sources can no longer be considered separately, but must be grouped together into a smart system in order to exploit synergies and, wherever possible, to avoid the construction of additional infrastructure.

However, this requires cross-regional, if not supranational, coordination and regulation by international authorities (EU).

In the ensuing podium discussion, issues related to the energy transition and climate change were discussed. An important issue was the growth private energy producers.

In the concluding panel discussion chaired by the General Secretary of WEC Austria, Robert Kobau, with Martin Graf (Energie Steiermark AG); Michael Gerbavsits (Energie Burgenland AG); Prof. Udo Bachhiesl (Institut für Elektrizitätswirtschaft und Energieinnovation, TU Graz); Josef Thoman (Austrian Chamber of Labor); and Markus Pichler (RAG); the participants underlined their view on the Austrian energy future and focused on the changes in the energy market.

It was agreed in order to implement necessary infrastructure projects; the wider public should be encouraged to understand the issues of energy production and distribution. The increase in the efficiency of energy producers and consumers offers great potential for optimisation, influencing changes in current energy policy (Energiewende).

The Young Energy Professional working group consists of (Michael Fuchs (Austrian Industry Association, currently BMWFW); Birgit Lemmerer (University of Graz, currently WinJi); Christoph Libisch-Lehner (Pöyry Energy GmbH); Peter Macher (KELAG); Daniel Nauschnegg (Consultant); Markus Pichler (RAG); and Raphaela Reinfeld-Spadt (Energie Burgenland AG.