Energy providers, large companies, and government agencies in particular will be required to reduce their energy consumption.
The Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People's Party (ÖVP) were joined by the Greens in achieving a vote of 177-55 in favour of the act, surpassing the necessary two-thirds majority of votes in parliament.
Other opposition parties however were unhappy with the result, with the far-right Freedom Party accusing the EU of calling for a re-industrialization of Europe on the one hand, and on the other hand putting barriers in the way of industrial growth.
Some industry groups called the requirements "expensive and bureaucratic," although the Austrian electricity industry said it was a “workable compromise.”.
Minister for Economy Reinhold Mitterlehner dismissed the criticism, adding that the necessary reforms set achievable goals and would lead to increased competitiveness.
Threat of daily fines
Meanwhile, Austria faces fines if it fails to implement EU law on making buildings more energy-efficient, the EU executive said on Thursday.
The European Commission is asking the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) to apply a penalty of €39,593 (US$54,000) against Austria for every day it does not comply with EU law.
Buildings account for about 40 percent of energy consumption and more than a third of EU carbon-dioxide emissions.
The EU directive says member states must establish energy performance requirements for all buildings, ensure certification of buildings' energy performance and require the regular inspection of heating and air-conditioning systems.
The directive also says member states must ensure that by 2021 all new buildings are ‘zero-energy’ – i.e. that they use roughly the same amount of energy as they create.
The Commission asked the ECJ to apply similar fines against Poland, and is also examining the situation in Slovenia, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy and the Czech Republic.
If the ECJ rules in favour of the Commission, the daily penalty will be applied from the date of the court's judgment until the country has complied with EU law.
Meanwhile, Vienna has been collecting data from a special ‘eco tram’ for the last ten months to see how much energy-saving potential it has and has concluded that it uses 13% less energy than a regular tram – roughly equivalent to the annual energy consumption of the average Austrian household.
The tram saves energy by using a more efficient cooling and heating system.
Vienna's new eco-tram strives for energy efficiency. Photo: Wiener Linien/Helmer