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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Where are energy prices going up (again) in Austria?

On Wednesday, energy companies announced that some households in Austria will be paying even more for gas and electricity soon. Here's what you need to know.

Where are energy prices going up (again) in Austria?

On Wednesday August 3rd, EVN and Wien Energie – both part of the Energieallianz Austria (EAA) group – announced they will be increasing energy prices from next month.

According to ORF, the increase announced by Lower Austria energy supplier EVN is “substantial” and will apply to gas and electricity.

EVN – which is mostly state-owned – blamed the move on price increases on the international wholesale markets.

FOR MEMBERS: Reader question: Should I buy an electric heater in Austria this winter?

Higher prices in Lower Austria

From September 1st, customers that get both gas and electricity from EVN should expect to pay at least €100 more a month. Around 50 percent of EVN customers – or those on a “classic tariff” – are expected to be impacted by the price increases. The increases won’t affect households on ‘price guarantee’ contracts.

However, to counteract the extra costs, EVN has also announced some money-saving measures for customers, such as registering in the customer portal, opting for email invoices or paying by direct debit. Additionally, a social fund of €3 million has been set up to help hardship cases.

In the future, EVN intends to adjust prices twice a year on April 1st and October 1st.

Increases (again) in Vienna prices

At Wien Energie, prices for electricity will be going up by €36 a month (based on an annual consumption of 2,000 kWh), and gas prices will increase by €60 a month (based on 8,000 kWh), reports Der Standard.

Customers will be notified by letter in August and the new rates will be in effect from September 1st. Those with a price guarantee or floating tariff will not be affected.

READ MORE: Austria starts anti-inflation payments with €180 bonus family allowance

EEA cited increases on the Austrian Electricity and Gas Index as the reason for the price increase. Since August 2021, the cost of electricity has gone up by 247 percent and gas by 323 percent.

A price adjustment in line with the index was due to come into effect at EAA in January 2023, but this has been brought forward.

Price caps and government subsidies

On July 20th, the Lower Austria state government announced a price cap on electricity prices to mitigate the financial impact of rising energy costs in the province.

As of September, residents in Lower Austria will be able to apply for the Strompreisrabatt (electricity price discount) to receive a price cap of 11 cents per kilowatt hour of power used.

The initiative will cover 80 percent of an average household consumption and will cost €250 million, reports Kurier. The funding will run until September 30th 2023.

Governor of Lower Austria Johanna Mikl-Leitner said: “Our electricity price relief brings balanced support for all Lower Austrians and creates a clear incentive to save energy.”

READ ALSO: Inflation at 9.2% in July: How to beat rising prices in Austria

The subsidy will be deducted directly from the energy bill from October and the calculation will be based on the number of people living in a household.  

The Austrian Federal Government then announced a similar nationwide initiative one week later.

According to a statement released on July 27th, the aim of the electricity price cap is to “support the Austrian population to ensure an affordable energy supply for a certain basic need”.

At the time of the announcement, no further details were provided but the government said that the conditions for the price cap would be developed by the end of August.

EVN and Wien Energie said that these measures by the government of Lower Austria and the federal government should help to mitigate the impact of rising energy costs on households.