Austria struggles with FIT limitations

The Federal Association for Photovoltaics Austria (PVA) has said there is huge interest in installing PV in the country. However, the current Green Electricity Act, which allows for an annual amount of €2.1 million for PV technology, has reached its limit until 2019. Consequently, anyone who applies today for tariff subsidies for a PV plant will have to wait until 2020. "An untenable state of affairs," is how Hans Kronberger of the PVA criticizes the situation.

He says: "We appeal to the Minister of Economics and the Parliament to design the new Eco-Electricity Act in such a way that Austria’s PV solicitors, as in more than 50 other countries in the world, are given the possibility to invest in this future technology. Solar electricity has (virtually) infinite primary energy and will be an important pillar of the power supply in the future."

The association goes on to say that it "expressly welcomes" a prevention of the ceiling on PV in the amendment of the Eco-Electricity Act, which the Minister of Economics, Reinhold Mitterlehner has hinted at several times.

According to the Austrian Institute of Technology, the country’s feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme is governed by the national Green Electricity Act. In 2010, for PV in/on buildings, systems up to five kWp were not supported; systems over five kWp to 10 kWp received 38 euro cents per kWp; and those over 10 kWp received 33 euro cents. In comparison, for PV not mounted on buildings, a FIT of 35 euro cents was paid to installations over five kWp to 10 kWp; systems over 10 kWp received 25 euro cents. In comparison, in 2009, systems up to five kWp received a tariff of 45.98 euro cents.

Managing director of Kioto Photovoltaics GmbH, Ingram Eusch, believes that Austria is in an excellent position for module production and in the supplier segments. However, he said that a strong domestic market needs to be established, in order for the country to maintain competitiveness.

In terms of installed capacity, a spokesperson for PVA tells pv magazine that the figures have grown from 4.6 megawatts (MWs) in 2008, to 20.2 MWs in 2009. Meanwhile, last year saw an estimated 40 MWs installed. Cell production capacity is also strong, with around 100 MWs produced in 2009.

Additionally, around 1,500 people are said to be employed in the country’s PV industry. However, Josef Witke, WKO Federal Guild Master Craftsman of the Electrical and Alarm System Engineering and Communication Electronics industry says this number could decrease.

"The Austrian trade certainly provided advance performance in recent years and trained specialists in order to build PV plants," he states. "Now the trade is faced with virtually unsolvable challenges as a result of the ‘stop and go policy’ that prevails in Austria. And, because the situation for the current year is still unclear, many companies are faced with the decision of whether to lay off specialized staff or to continue to employ them at their own risk. In contrast to our neighboring countries photovoltaic industry in Austria is still a tender seedling that requires care!"

In terms of public opinion, PVA cites a recent study by euroSearch, which was commissioned by Austria’s Department of the Environment. According to the findings, 77 percent of the Austrians surveyed said they are interested in the energy supply questions of the future. But, only two percent trust policymakers in this regard. What’s more, only three percent of those surveyed are of the opinion that sufficient measures are being taken in order to efficiently promote renewable energy, while 80 percent think that more could be done.