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Renewable Energy Expansion Act

promotes green energy transition

Renewable Energy Expansion Act

Increasing annual electricity generation from renewable sources by 27 TWh by 2030, ensuring security of supply and increasing the share of renewables in district heating: the Federal Minister for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology sent a comprehensive legislative package for review in September 2020 – and presented the Renewable Energy Expansion Act to the public on 11 March 2021. 

This legislative package contains elements such as the draft of the Renewable Energy Expansion Act (EAG) and a whole series of accompanying measures. These include, in particular, amendments to the Green Electricity Act, the Electricity Industry Act, the Gas Industry Act and the Power Grid Routes Act (Renewable Energy Expansion Act Package). The Renewable Energy Sources Act package is primarily intended to offer new regulation of the prerequisites for the promotion of electricity generation from renewable sources, the organisation and functioning of renewable energy communities, and their participation in the promotion schemes. In addition, it also provides for guarantees of energy origins and green certificates for gas from renewable sources. Plus, an integrated infrastructure plan is to be drawn up for the Austrian grid. 

Market premiums are planned to promote the use of hydropower, wind power, photovoltaics and solid biomass to generate electricity, as are investment subsidies for the construction, expansion and revitalisation of certain plants for the generation of electricity from renewable sources (photovoltaic plants, hydropower plants, wind power plants and electricity storage). The agenda also includes the establishment of renewable energy communities and citizens’ energy communities, as well as offering support for innovative projects by creating regulatory freedom. Grid operators, on the other hand, are to be given the ability to own plants to convert electricity into hydrogen or synthetic gas, as well as to construct, manage and operate these plants even more easily in the future. 

Unfortunately, the federal government’s ambitions hit a brick wall and the EAEC package was placed on ice from the end of the review period on 16 September 2020 until shortly before the editorial deadline. After all, the current Renewable Energy Sources Act package is not just part of an ambitious project launched by the Austrian federal government: it also concerns essential regulatory areas of the ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package under EU law. As a result, the federal government did not have an infinite amount of time to execute this legislative project. The next deadline in this regard is 30 June 2021, by which time essential parts of Directive 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources must be implemented. On 11 March 2021 (the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster), Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler presented the revised draft. 

It provides for a funding volume of one billion euros per year until 2030 for the expansion of renewables. Furthermore, 500 million euros are to be made available by 2030 for a ‘green transformation’ of domestic industry. This could provide important investment incentives, and they are not only needed to help companies cope with the consequences of the coronavirus crisis: they are also urgently needed to help protect the climate. 

In the long term, investments in renewable energies can be profitable for all parties involved, which means that investors should also be very keen to see the present draft be implemented as quickly as possible. Plant operators who have been active in the sector for a while have already been waiting for an unreasonably long time for a legal framework that has been adapted to the current requirements, so they can finally have (planning) security for upcoming investments. However, companies and investors who have not yet dealt with this topic much, if at all, have little time left to examine possible investments in renewable energy and to get themselves in the starting blocks. As soon as the final draft of the Renewable Energy Sources Act, including all the details, is published, we will be happy to provide you and your projects with our expertise. 


AUTHOR:

Mag. Andreas Bauer, Attorney-at-Law and Head of Environmental & Public Commercial Law at LANSKY, GANZGER + partner

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