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ENERGY

How Austria plans to secure enough energy for next winter

The Austrian Federal Government has devised a €6.6 billion plan to ensure the country has enough storage of natural gas by autumn.

Austria will not adopt an embargo on Russian gas and oil. Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.
What could happen if we enter winter in Austria with a limited supply of gas? The Austrian Association of Cities is currently discussing contingency plans. Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.

On Wednesday morning, the Council of Ministers met to discuss contingency plans for Austria’s energy supplies amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

This was followed by an announcement that a further €5 billion will be directed towards storage and natural gas stockpiling, in addition to the €1.6 billion already earmarked for Austria’s reserve gas supply. 

According to Kurier, Austria’s gas storage tanks should be 80 percent full by the start of the next autumn. The tanks are currently just 18 percent full.

READ MORE: What does Russia’s decision to cut gas to Poland mean for Austria?

Speaking about the €6.6 billion plan, Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer said: “No apartment should be cold in Austria.”

Fears of disruption to Austria’s gas supplies have been raised after Russian-owned Gazprom turned off the gas supply to Poland on Wednesday morning and threatened Bulgaria with similar action. Austria sources 80 percent of its natural gas from Russia.

Austria’s Minister for Energy Leonore Gewessler confirmed on Wednesday that Russian gas was still flowing into Austria uninterrupted, but stressed the importance for the Alpine Republic to diversify its energy supplies as soon as possible.

FOR MEMBERS: ‘An unprecedented situation’: How would a gas embargo impact Austria?

In the short term, Gewessler said existing gas supply relationships with Norway are to be expanded and discussions are being held with companies in North Africa and Qatar. Austria is also part of an EU-wide initiative for the joint purchase of natural gas.

Additionally, Nehammer took to Twitter on Wednesday to rebuke allegations made by the Russian state-owned news agency TASS that Austria had agreed to pay for natural gas supplies in roubles – a move that is prohibited by EU sanctions.

Nehammer Tweeted: “Before more fake news of Russian propaganda is spread here. OMV will of course continue to pay for gas deliveries from Russia in euros. Austria is adhering to the jointly agreed EU sanctions to the letter.”

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ENERGY

How Austria plans to secure the food supply in the event of a blackout

The energy crisis and war in Ukraine have raised fears of blackouts in Austria this winter. While the risk is low, there are now plans in place to distribute food if the worst happens.

How Austria plans to secure the food supply in the event of a blackout

Grocery retailers in Austria have agreed on an emergency plan to secure the food supply to the nation in the event of blackout.

The agreement followed a meeting with Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) and Agriculture Minister Norbert Totschnig (ÖVP) on Tuesday (November 29), reports ORF.

FOR MEMBERS: Energy crisis: What to do in case of a power outage in Austria

A statement released following the meeting said: “As a system-critical infrastructure, the domestic food retail trade has a social responsibility to be prepared for emergencies and to be able to ensure the basic supply of the population even in the event of a blackout.”

What is the emergency plan for Austria’s food supply?

If Austria is hit by a widespread blackout, all grocery stores will close to protect the supplies.

On the second day, supermarkets will open from 10am to 3pm, but staff will hand out bags of fresh food at the front of the shops and customers will not be allowed to enter.

This will take place at Spar, Interspar, Maximarkt, Billa, Penny, ADEG, Sutterlüty, Hofer, Lidl, Nah- und Frisch, Unimarkt and M-Preis stores.

The bags will contain ready-made food, water, non-perishable bread and canned goods. Convenience products and candles will be sold for cash. Baby items and hygiene products will be available on request.

If a blackout extends to a third day, only dry food will be distributed.

Additionally, all Austrian households are advised to have a supply of food to last for 14 days, as well as around €100 in cash per family member.

READ MORE: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

How secure is Austria’s energy supply?

Austria is a country with a stable electricity supply – with most of the power coming from hydroelectric or wind power farms.

In 2020, hydropower accounted for 55 to 67 percent of the electricity generated in the Alpine country. The leading electricity companies operate around 130 hydropower plants, especially taking advantage of its mountainous location.

According to the country’s Climate and Energy Ministry, wind power accounted for 10 percent, while solar 4 percent. In total, around 80 percent of Austria’s electricity comes from renewables.

Vienna has one of the most secure supplies worldwide, according to the independent regulatory authority E-Control. Moreover, the current figures on the subject of security of supply show that the Viennese were only affected by a power failure for just under 18 minutes a year – an improvement from 2021.

The capital is also equipped with “black start-capable power plants”, which can start up independently without outside help – thus ensuring supply even if a prolonged widespread power blackout should occur in Europe.

The situation in the rest of the country is similar. But Viennese authorities have asked the federal government to enter into talks with the federal states to develop a national emergency plan. 

Emergency preparation guidelines for the general population include keeping a flashlight with working batteries in case of a power grid malfunction, keeping a battery-powered radio in your home and even having non-perishable food and potable water in the household.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the chances of blackouts in Austria this winter?

Austria’s energy emergency system

Since March, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Austria has been at level 1 (the early warning level) of the alert system related to energy consumption.

However, due to the aggravated situation surrounding gas deliveries, the increasing number of cases of suspected sabotage of gas pipelines to Europe and the current developments relating to the Ukraine war, an alert level (level 2) could be expected for Austria.

Level 2 is declared if the gas situation deteriorates. At this stage, businesses are encouraged to use alternatives to natural gas whenever possible. 

Level 3 – the emergency level – is activated when gas can no longer be supplied and the current demand can no longer be met. Measures for industry, such as substituting natural gas with other energies as energy control measures, are to be put in place. 

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