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Biomass the enabler of Austria’s energy transition

Biomass the enabler of Austria’s energy transition
Prof. Tobias Pröll (left), Universität für Bodenkultur Wien; Walter Haslinger, CEO, BEST; Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology Climate Leonore Gewessler; Franz Titschenbacher, President Austrian Biomass Association, and Secretary-General of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management Management Günter Liebel (photo courtesy ÖBMV).

Biomass as an energy source is one of the most important renewable energy sources for phasing out fossil fuels. According to the Austrian Biomass Association (ÖMBV), Austria could almost double its use of biomass for energy, from 13 million tonnes currently used to up to 24 million tonnes, thereby providing increased energy security, emissions reduction, and reduced import dependency.

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The announcement was made on day two of the ongoing 7th Central European Biomass Conference (CEBC) taking place in Graz, Austria where some 1 600 delegates from 37 countries have convened.

Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology Climate Leonore Gewessler (Greens) emphasized the importance of biomass for the energy transition at a press briefing at the CEBC in Graz.

The previous year has shown us how important it is to strengthen energy independence at all levels. Only if we produce the energy we need ourselves, no one can blackmail us with energy supplies. This can be done, for example, by using domestic biomass to heat our houses or by generating climate-friendly biogas, said Minister Gewessler.

Whether woody residues, agricultural residues, organic waste, or slurry: the expectations of biomass are diverse.

Minister Gewessler also commented on the “Renewable-Gas-Law” that is intended to ensure that domestic green gas production is expanded to 10.5 TWh per year by 2030.

Every terawatt hour of green gas means one terawatt hour less dependency. Green gas will become our fuel for a climate-neutral industry, Minister Gewessler said.

Boiler replacement scheme

In Austria, the boiler replacement from a fossil-fuelled system to a renewable heat system is being promoted in the “Out of Oil and Gas” support program.

In 2022, 85 000 applications were made of which 47 percent were applications for biomass heating systems, 35 percent for heat pumps, and 18 percent for district heating.

Minister Gewessler, spoke of a “new record in switching to climate-friendly heating systems”.

Private households are currently receiving a subsidy of up to EUR 7 500 from the state when replacing a fossil heating system with a heat pump or a biomass heating system.

In addition, there is a bonus of EUR 2 000 if the switch is from a gas boiler to a “climate-friendly alternative”.

Franz Titschenbacher, President of the Austrian Biomass Association, emphasized that without bioenergy, the population’s basic supply of heat and electricity could not be maintained if fossil gas and oil were phased out.

In order to maintain the basic security of supply, 12 to 17 million tonnes of biomass would be required. However, the expansion potential of bioenergy in Austria is large.

In Austria around 48 million tonnes of biomass are theoretically useable – 13 million tonnes of which are already being used for energy purposes.

Austria could almost double its use of biomass for energy (graphic courtesy ÖBMV).

According to the Austrian Biomass Association (ÖBMV), the proportion could be increased to up to 24 million tonnes through the efficient use of biomass, the use of residues from agriculture and industry, and through sustainable intensification – such as the active adaptation of the forest to climate change.

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