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Upper Austria's "AdieuÖl" campaign proving a boost for biomass heat

In Upper Austria, energy efficiency and renewables have long been a top priority. As a result of effective measures, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the buildings sector have been reduced by 39 percent since 2005. To speed up the replacement of oil heating, the regional energy agency – OÖ Energiesparverband (OÖESV) – has developed and launched the "AdieuÖl" large-scale information and stakeholder campaign which is being supported by the Regional Minister of Energy.

With the “AdieuÖl” campaign, Upper Austria and its regional energy agency, OÖ Energiesparverband (OÖESV), are giving a clear sign of their commitment to leaving oil behind – and it’s working. Over 7 000 old oil boilers were replaced with renewable heating in 2019 and 2020 alone, of which more than 50 percent were biomass heat systems (image courtesy OÖESV).

According to the regional energy agency, OÖ Energiesparverband (OÖESV), 60 percent of all space heating in Upper Austria comes from renewables, and the consumption of heating oil in the region has decreased by around 1/3 in the past 12 years.

Today, only 18 percent of dwellings are still heated with oil. However, these oil heating systems, around 110 000 units, are responsible for 45 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from buildings.

With a choice of affordable and highly efficient renewable options available, moving away from oil heating is the next logical step in the energy transition. This is being achieved in Upper Austria through a range of dedicated measures with a goal of no oil heating in the region by 2035.

Opportunity for biomass heat

With over 50 percent of the removed oil systems in the region being replaced with biomass heating such as woodchips, pellets, or biomass-fired district heat, eliminating oil heating is a major economic opportunity for the bioenergy sector.

Furthermore, as of 2019, the installation of oil heating systems in new buildings is not permitted in Upper Austria and attractive financial incentives to replace oil heating are still available. Moreover, to speed up the replacement of oil heating, OÖESV has developed and launched “AdieuÖl”, large-scale information and stakeholder campaign supported by the Regional Minister of Energy.

The campaign reaches out to people in their social environment, motivates them to participate in multiple ways, and uses the power of civil society and community to build up momentum for the energy transition.

The strategy is to activate stakeholder groups such as municipalities, installers, equipment manufacturers, that can identify oil-heating homeowners and directly contact them.

The communication effort focuses on other elements than climate protection and energy cost savings, which has not motivated these oil-heaters thus far.

Efforts were put into finding arguments and a language they could relate to, in essence, messaging that “oil heating is not modern anymore, it’s dying out; switching is simpler than you think; and the investment pays off, for you and the environment.”

Leading by example

Upper Austria is giving a clear sign of its commitment to leaving oil behind – and it’s working. Over 7 000 old oil boilers were replaced with renewable heating in 2019 and 2020 alone.

As revealed during the Special Edition WSED/EPC 2021, in the European residential space heating and cooling sector alone, there are still over 17 million oil-fired units in operation. As a CO2-neutral fuel, sustainable bioenergy is a key pillar for decarbonization.

Wood pellets are a well-proven fuel that can replace oil in residential heating applications such as domestic stoves and boilers, and district heating plants.

“Pellets – fuelling the energy transition!” – is the focus of the next edition of the European Pellet Conference (EPC), the largest global annual pellet event.

Held as part of the annual World Sustainable Energy Days (WSED) organized by OÖESV, it will take place on March 2-3, 2022 in Wels, Austria and promises to be an ideal opportunity to find out how one can bid “Adieu” to oil, and hello to bioenergy.

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