Environment and Energy: an Overview

Climate change and managing our scarce resources indisputably count among the grand social challenges of our times. The goal is to improve existing technologies and to develop and apply new ones – in the fields of energy generation and use as well as transport and production. In this context, the focus is not only on developing new technologies but also on providing systemic and socially compatible solutions.

Both Austria and the European Union have defined a number of ambitious goals laid down in strategies, plans, directives and guidelines. The goals to be achieved under the Energy 2020 Strategy, for instance, include a 20 per cent reduction in green house gas emissions, a 20 per cent increase in energy efficiency and an increase in the share of renewables in final energy consumption by 20 per cent by the year 2020.  

Environment and Energy as Economic Factors

Environmental protection and the conservation of resources do not automatically have a negative impact on quality of life and economic growth – quite on the contrary: innovative environmental and energy technology contributes to achieving the goals set by the EU.

In 2009, a total of 199,824 people were employed in the environmental industry (production, service and trade), which is an increase of more than 3 per cent compared to 2008. Austrian companies active in four green industries alone – biomass, photovoltaics, solar thermal and heat pumps – generated a turnover of 3.6 billion euro in 2010, employing a total of 27,617 people.

  • Energy engineering from Austria is an export hit: two out of three biomass boilers installed in Germany were made in Austria, 79 per cent of all solar thermal collectors produced in Austria are sold on the export market. In total, these renewable forms of energy reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 10.2 million tons.
  • With its 13,300 employees the biofuel industry generated total sales of 1.3 billion euro in 2010. The use of biogenic fuels reduced CO2 emissions by some 9.4 million tons in 2010. 
  • At the end of 2010, a total of 4.5 million square meters of solar collectors were in operation in Austria. Although the solar thermal market registered a decline of more than 20 per cent compared with 2009, Austria holds a very good second place in Europe, behind Cyprus, with respect to installed solar thermal capacity per capita. And with almost 1.3 million square metres of collector area, Austria is one of the largest producers in Europe, exporting 79 per cent of its production. 
  • 15 per cent of the entire passive house floor space in Europe is located in Austria. 

 

Research and Development

While public investment in energy research still ranged between 20 and 30 million euro between 1994 and 2003, it increased substantially from 2004 onwards. With the establishment of the Climate and Energy Fund, public investment soared to more than 70 million euro annually from 2008 onwards. The total amount spent on energy research in 2010 amounted to 92 million euro of which 63 million were invested by the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology.

Participation levels in international programmes have also remained high for years. While funding in the field of energy was clearly above average under the 6th EU Framework Programme (exceeding Austria’s calculatory share), but slightly below average in the field of environmental research, the trend indicated by interim figures available for the current 7th Framework Programme is precisely the other way around: funds flowing back to Austria are slightly below average in the energy field while they are above average in the environmental field.

(Sources: Research Strategy of the Austrian Federal Government, Energy Research Strategy of the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development, Renewable Energies Market Analysis).