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Austria to receive less Russian gas as Moscow steps up pressure

Austria's OMV energy company said on Thursday that it too would receive less Russian gas as Moscow steps up pressure on Europe.

Austria to receive less Russian gas as Moscow steps up pressure
The Schwechat OMV oil refinery near Vienna is among Europes largest inland refineries for mineral oil products. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Russia on Wednesday slashed gas supplies to the continent for the second day in a row, in a move blasted as “political” by Germany.

“We can confirm that we have been informed by (Russia’s) Gazprom about reduced delivery volumes,” said OMV in a statement emailed to AFP.

The company said supply to its customers was “ensured at the moment”.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

“If necessary at all, since there is currently a significantly lower demand, these volumes can be replaced by storage volumes and volumes from the spot market,” it said.

OMV gave no further details on how much less gas it would receive and from when.

Several European countries, including Germany, are highly reliant upon Russian gas for their energy needs.

But since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they have been battling to wean themselves off Russian power.

Austria’s gas plan

Austria is heavily dependent on Russian energy and sources around 80 percent of natural gas from Russia but a recent study by the Energy Agency shows that Austria could manage without Russian gas from 2027.

According to the study, which was commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment, it would require gas consumption to the reduced by 25 percent, a temporary tripling of alternative gas imports and the expansion of biogas and green hydrogen production in Austria.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How reliant is Austria on Russia for energy?

Last month, the federal government unveiled an emergency plan that would be activated if Russia cut its supply to the country, as The Local reported.

The plan contains mostly long-term measures, though, such as an increase of the strategic gas reserve by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh using non-Russian gas. 

In the short term, the federal government 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.

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Austria looking to cut energy bills in old residential buildings

The Austrian government is planning to reduce gas bills for people who rent Altbau apartments, one of the measures to cushion rising prices.

Austria looking to cut energy bills in old residential buildings

Austria has plans to reduce gas bills for people renting an Altbau, or old buildings, which often fall under rent control laws.

Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) is looking into how a price reduction for gas heating could be implemented after the idea was floated by Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens), broadcaster ORF reported.

READ ALSO: ENERGY CRISIS: Will Austria have enough gas for winter?

“The tenants get a high bill but have zero leeway to change their heating system themselves,” Kogler told Austrian media.

Austria’s ÖVP leading party said there is “no ban on thinking” and any idea should be debated and evaluated.

The old residential apartments have a central heating system and tenants cannot adjust it themselves. At the same time, Kogler wants to create incentives for apartment building owners and landlords to convert to renewable heating systems.

Opposition parties divided

The SPÖ is in favour of the measures, while right-wing FPÖ says they make “tenancy law even more confusing”.

Unsurprisingly, the landowners’ association (ÖHGB) said they saw Kogler’s proposal as impractical populism. Furthermore, they complain that changing the heating source is not an easy matter in Austria, where many options, such as heat pumps or district heating, are not available everywhere.

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

There are currently around 250,000 apartments in Altbau buildings, most of them in the capital Vienna, and heated with gas.

Rising energy prices

The costs of gas (and electricity) are increasing in Austria, as The Local reported. State-run distributors EVN and Wien Energie announced earlier this month that prices were set to go up as of September.

In Lower Austria, around 50 percent of EVN consumers should expect to pay at least €100 more monthly. The hike will affect those on a “classic tariff”.

READ ALSO: Five of the biggest challenges facing Austria right now

At Wien Energie, electricity prices will go 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). However, those with a price guarantee or floating tariff will not be affected.

Austria is looking to cushion the increasing costs for its population and is working on an electricity price cap. Earlier this year, the government sent out €150 energy vouchers people could use to get a discount on their yearly energy bills.

Regionally, similar measures have already been taken, especially in Lower Austria, where a €250 million funding plan was recently announced.

Vienna has announced an extensive package with one-off payments of €200 and structural measures that will benefit more than one million residents in the Austrian capital, as The Local reported.

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