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ENERGY

Austria throws support behind embargo of Russian oil

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler told reporters that the country is prepared to support a European Commission decision on further sanctions, including an embargo of Russian oil.

Austria throws support behind embargo of Russian oil
Austria's Green Minister of Climate and Environment Leonore Gewessler answers journalists' questions during an Environment ministers council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on December 20, 2021. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

Austrian Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) said Austria does not oppose an oil embargo against Russia and is prepared to support the measure along with other European countries.

“Austria is ready to consistently support an oil embargo if the European Commission and the member states decide to do so”, the minister told reporters ahead of a special EU meeting of energy ministers in Brussels this Monday.

However, she added that an essential requirement for such a measure is that European countries be able to be united in the embargo. Austria has already stopped processing Russian oil in March, she mentioned. 

The meeting between EU energy representatives is meant to discuss the bloc’s energy supply considering Russia had temporarily halted deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria. The ministers are also expected to talk about the EU’s plans for a possible oil embargo against the Kremlin. 

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

Germany on board

After weeks of hesitance and attempts to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, Germany has said it would support an oil embargo against Moscow, The Local Germany reported. 

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the country was now prepared to manage without Russian oil for several years after reaching new supply contracts in the past few months. 

The country’s Economic Affairs and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck also said that Germany would support an oil embargo but that other EU members were “not yet ready”. 

Oil vs Gas

While Austria might be prepared to do away with Russian oil when it comes to gas, the story is quite different. 

READ ALSO: Is Austria set for a gas price hike – and what can you do to avoid it?

The country sources around 80 per cent of natural gas from Russia, and experts believe Austria could only get rid of this dependency by 2027 if it manages to reduce its gas consumption by 25 per cent and expand biogas and green hydrogen domestic production.

In April, Austria announced a €5 billion investment towards storage and natural gas stockpiling, looking for contingency plans for next winter. This is in addition to €1.6 billion that had already been earmarked for Austria’s reserve gas supply.

Still, the country’s gas storage tanks, which should be 80 per cent full by the start of next autumn to last through winter, are now only at 18 per cent. Austria might be ready for an oil embargo, but it is still looking to diversify its sources of natural gas.

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ENERGY

From lighting to ice skating: How Vienna plans to save energy

Winter is approaching and with it a higher use of energy. Here’s what the City of Vienna is doing to save gas and electricity this winter.

From lighting to ice skating: How Vienna plans to save energy

As the war in Ukraine continues and energy prices skyrocket, Austria could be in for a tough winter.

To offset some of the impacts, the City of Vienna is now preparing for the cold season and rolling out a series of energy saving measures.

The aim is to reduce energy consumption in the Austrian capital by 15 percent by the end of March 2023, which is in line with the target set by the European Commission earlier this year.

FOR MEMBERS: UPDATED: How reliant is Austria on Russia for energy?

Mayor Michael Ludwig said: “Cooperation in Vienna is the most important basis for getting through difficult times well and safely.

“We proved that during the pandemic and we will prove that now. Our motto is: stick together so that everyone stays warm.”

Here are the main elements of the plan.

Ice skating

The Wiener Eistraum ice skating rink on Rathausplatz is scheduled to run from January to March 2023. But, according to the Wiener Zeitung, there is uncertainty over whether it can take place at all this winter.

The structure on Vienna’s town hall square is a popular winter attraction in the city. It attracts both locals and tourists with pretty lighting and pre-heated ice skates for hire. But it also requires a lot of energy to operate.

As a result, there is a possibility that the Wiener Eistraum could be cancelled or scaled back, although a final decision hasn’t been made yet.

READ ALSO: Reader question: I’ve received my Austrian Klimabonus as a voucher, now what?

Christmas markets

The Wiener Zeitung reports that Vienna’s Christmas market in front of the Rathausplatz is currently not at risk of being cancelled – at least not under the current plans.

The Rathausplatz is the city’s biggest Christmas market and is scheduled to open on November 19th, which is one week later than in 2021.

Lighting

The City of Vienna said the conversion to LED street lighting is continuing across the capital. So far, around half of the city’s 153,000 street lamps have been replaced with LED bulbs. 

The use of street lighting in Vienna has also changed. From 10pm, lighting in low-traffic areas is reduced to 75 percent, and then to 50 percent after midnight.

The LED street lighting project is expected to reduce energy consumption by 60 percent and is part of the city’s long-term energy saving plans.

Administrative buildings, campuses and pools

Energy saving measures are also being rolled out across administrative buildings, at public pools and educational buildings in Vienna.

The Town Hall claims that around 193,000 MWh (or €14.7 million) has already been saved at 42 government buildings, including at kindergartens and schools.

Further energy saving projects are planned for the Jörgerbad, Floridsdorferbad and Kongressbad public pools.

Additionally, the Liselotte-Hansen-Schmidt campuses in Donaustadt, Liesing and Penzing are heated and cooled with geothermal energy. They are also fitted with large photovoltaic systems.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to keep energy bills down in Austria

Investment in the energy network

Between 2022 and 2026, Wiener Stadtwerke Group will invest around €6.2 billion to improve Vienna’s energy infrastructure, with €5.7 billion earmarked for “climate-friendly investments”. 

Wien Energie is investing €1.2 billion into the conversion of the energy system by 2026 and around €400 million is reserved for the expansion of renewable electricity production.

Peter Hanke, City Councillor for Economic Affairs, said: “In addition to the city’s goal of being climate-neutral by 2040, the security of supply for the Viennese is particularly important to me. 

“By 2030, we will invest around €3 billion in the network security of the federal capital Vienna via Wiener Netze. 

“Such a stable power grid makes the integration of renewable energies possible because 90 percent of the energy transition takes place in the distribution grid.” 

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