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How Upper Austria is tackling the clean heat transition

How Upper Austria is tackling the clean heat transition
Upper Austria has a clear phase-out plan for fossil heating oil.

The energy world has taken a profound shift. With the current heating season underway in the northern hemisphere, making a clean heat transition a reality as quickly and as affordable as possible is top of the agenda for many European households and elected officials alike.

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This is also true for regions that already have a high share of renewable heat like Upper Austria. There is however a fundamental difference compared to the past.

Previously, the focus in Upper Austria was often on motivating building owners to invest in renewable heat.

According to figures from the Upper Austrian regional energy agency – OÖ Energiesparverband (OÖESV) – some 37 percent of dwellings are heated with clean bioenergy, 13 percent with district heating from combined heat and power (CHP), and 11 percent with heat pumps (graphic courtesy OÖESV).

Today the challenge is to figure out how to cope with the soaring demand while maintaining high-quality levels across the heating technology and renewable fuel value chains.

Upper Austria is home to 1.5 million inhabitants, and over 60 percent of all space heating already comes from renewable and waste heat – a trend that continues to increase.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from buildings have been reduced by 39 percent over the past decade, bringing the region closer to its goal of climate neutrality.

Upper Austria’s recipe for clean heat market transformation

However, there is more work to be done as over 30 percent of dwellings in Upper Austria are heated using fossil gas and heating oil.

Thus the region has devised a recipe for its clean heat transition, a recipe it is more than willing to share.

More than “one egg in the basket” approach: choice of technologies for clean heat on the market (automatic bioenergy boilers, heat pumps, and district heating from renewables and CHP).

Emission and efficiency: Stringent emissions and efficiency requirements for heating systems and buildings increase customer demand for complying systems, driving innovation and resulting in more varied product and service offerings.

Incentives: Attractive and stable, avoiding stop-and-go, financial incentives for switching to renewables including 50 percent funding regardless of income level and up to 100 percent funding for low-income households. Free, independent energy advice for homeowners and municipalities by the ÖOESV to guide investment decisions.

Phase-out plan: A clear, phased plan for banning fossil oil heating with a similar plan for fossil gas is under development

  • 2019: no oil heating in new buildings;
  • 2022: no replacement of broken boilers with new oil boilers;
  • 2025-2035: older oil boilers replaced with a phased plan starting with the oldest (45+ years) first. No fossil oil-fired boilers after 2035.

Supporting market structures: Training, awareness raising, and networking along the entire heat value chain; “AdieuÖl” (Goodbye oil) and solar PV campaigns; Cleantech-Cluster with a network of 250 energy and environmental technology companies

Sustainable bioheat in Austria – clean and climate neutral

The development of the bioheat market in Austria stands on three quality pillars: sustainable forestry practices, effective fuel production and distribution, and efficient and low-emission heating equipment.

Bioenergy (mostly pellets and woodchips) is derived from carbon dioxide (CO2) neutral and sustainable fuels produced from residues from sustainable forestry and by-products from the wood industry.

The quality and convenience of modern, fully automated, ultra-low emission heating equipment helped create consumer trust. For all renewables, strict criteria assure that only highly efficient equipment is installed.

This makes Upper Austria the perfect location for the European Pellet Conference – one of the largest annual pellet events worldwide.

Organized annually by OÖ Energiesparverband the next edition will place on March 1, 2023, under the motto “Pellets – clean and climate neutral highlighting the important role of pellets in securing a clean energy future, and concrete policies, technologies, and markets to get there.

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