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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.

Vienna altbau old building
Gas could be getting cheaper in Austrian Altbau buildings (Photo by Luca Dugaro on Unsplash)

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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ENERGY

Russia suspends gas to Italy after ‘problem’ in Austria

Russia's Gazprom has suspended gas deliveries to Italy's Eni, blaming a transport problem in Austria, the Italian energy giant said on Saturday.

Russia suspends gas to Italy after 'problem' in Austria

“Gazprom told us that it was not able to confirm the delivery of the volumes demanded for today, citing the impossibility of gas transport through Austria,” Eni said in a statement.

As a result, “Russian gas flows to Eni via the Tarvisio entry point will be naught”, it said.

In a statement published on Telegram, Gazprom said the problem was due to regulatory changes in Austria that took place at the end of September and that it was working with Italian customers to resolve the issue.

According to Gazprom, the Austrian gas grid operator had refused to confirm the transport nominations.

In Austria, regulatory authority E-Control said the new rules, which entered into force on Saturday, had been “known to all market actors for months”.

It said it expected “all to conform and take the necessary measures to fulfil their obligations”.

The problems were related to “contractual details” linked to the transit of gas towards Italy, it said on Twitter, adding in response to a tweeted question that this currently had “no effect” on users in Austria.

Most of Russian gas delivered to Italy passes via Ukraine through the Trans Austria Gas Pipeline (TAG), to Tarvisio in northern Italy on the border with Austria.

Before the war in Ukraine, Italy imported 95 percent of the gas it consumes — about 45 percent of which came from Russia.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi has signed new deals with other gas producers to reduce Italy’s reliance on Russia, lowered to 25 percent as of June, while accelerating a shift towards renewable energies.

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