Austria to back solar expansion with EUR 600m, ease approval rules
A solar park in Austria. Image by Wien Energie GmbH.
Austria is planning a set of measures that aim to further promote the rollout of renewable energy across the country, including simplified approval processes for new projects and a record budget of EUR 600 million (USD 646.3m) to support solar expansion in 2023.
The federal government has decided to amend the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process in order to ensure a "fast track" for green energy projects, the Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology said this week.
The changes are meant to make procedures for the construction of new green energy plants easier and more efficient, removing double tests and optimising the process structure. In the future, it should be possible to begin an EIA procedure without approval from the municipality where the plant will be located. The consent of the municipality will be then obtained as part of the EIA procedure which is expected to shorten the process.
Austria's wind energy association IG Windkraft welcomed the proposed amendment as it will simplify and speed up the approval process without compromising the review or limiting public participation.
A positive aspect is that the amended EIA procedure will allow the approval of projects independently of the designation of areas by provinces in case there is not sufficient energy spatial planning, according to IG Windkraft's legal expert Ursula Naherer. If it is adopted, it will be an important milestone for the energy transition, Naherer added.
This year, the government will also allocate almost EUR 200 million of additional funds to subsidise solar system installations on top of what was provided in 2022. The financing is granted in the form of investment subsidies and market premiums awarded in funding calls throughout the year. In addition to these incentives, the government will add another funding scheme with a budget of EUR 268 million to support photovoltaic projects that can be implemented quickly.
According to Vera Immitzer, Managing Director at industry association PV Austria, the measure comes exactly at the right time and will enable the implementation of projects that have been planned but their further development is unclear due to the lack of funding.
In a push to incentivise the deployment of renewable energy, the Austrian government is planning also the new Renewables Expansion Acceleration Act (EABG) that should provide a further framework and establish a single competent authority that issues a permit for a new project.
Immitzer is cautiously optimistic about the effect of the planned EAGB. Apart from the federal government, an accelerated rollout of renewable energy requires also the participation of federal states and active energy spatial planning, Immitzer said. The EAGB could be a good basis as long as all stakeholders are involved, she explained.
Anna is a DACH expert when it comes to covering business news and spotting trends. She has also built a deep understanding of Middle Eastern markets and has helped expand Renewables Now's reach into this hot region.