Low FITs choked Austrian wind

Austria is a prime example of how low feed-in tariffs (FITs) can choke renewables development, new figures show.

Only when FITs were increased in 2010 did the Austrian wind sector really start to take off, says Johann Winkelmeier, managing director of Energiewerkstatt, a consultancy that does wind research and compiles wind maps.

“For that, the political will is fundamental,” he tells Recharge at EWEA 2013.

In 2002, as part of its Green Electricity Law, Austria established a FIT of €0.078 ($0.105) per kWh. From 2006, it gradually declined to a low of €0.075 in 2010. As a result, new wind installations fell from 276MW in 2003 to virtually nothing in 2010.

Only when the government upped the remuneration to an initial €0.097 per kWh in 2011 did the situation change. Last year, 296MW was added, and this year Energiewerkstatt expects 420MW.

Together with the new FIT rate, Austria adopted more ambitious targets for green power beyond its abundant hydro potential.

In 2015, the government hopes that 15% of electricity will be generated from wind, PV, biomass and small hydro, up from 8% in 2010. For 2020, it has a target to reach 3GW of wind, which could meet 10% of consumption. That’s up from 1.38GW last year.

Currently, almost all capacity is in the eastern lowlands. To exploit the promising potential in the Alpine regions, there should be a higher “mountain rate” FIT, similar to greater rates for offshore, Winkelmeier argues.

That would take into account that installation costs in the Alps are up to 10% higher due to the cold and a terrain that requires longer grid connections. Operation costs in the Alps are also higher; for instance, roads have to be cleared of snow.