Austria enhances PV incentives

"It was a difficult birth, but it has turned into a very beautiful child," said Hans Kronberger, chairman of the federal association Photovoltaic Austria (PVA) when speaking with pv magazine. The birth Kronberger refers to is the photovoltaic subsidies final resolution adopted by the Austrian Upper House of Parliament at the end of last week.

Kronberger expressly praised Minister of Economics Reinhold Mitterlehner who on more than one occasion, leopard like, "changed his spots" during the negotiations on the future structure of photovoltaic subsidies.

"The amendment represents a good start for photovoltaic technology," Kronberger went on to say. It is the starting point for the required change in energy policy.

Reacting to, not least of all, large popular pressure, policymakers have clearly improved the incentives for photovoltaic technology systems. The new law will presumably enter into force on September 1, 2011.

The renegotiated feed-in tariffs (FIT) mean that rooftop photovoltaic installations with between five and 20 kilowatts output and that feed their solar electricity completely into the grid will receive 38 cents for each kilowatt-hour (kWh). Rooftop photovoltaic installations with a capacity of more than 20 kilowatts will receive 33 cents as remuneration for each kWh.

These same FIT classes will be maintained for all other installation types. Thus 35 cents per kWh for solar electricity in the case of small systems, while larger outdoor installations will receive a solar subsidy of 25 cents per kWh.

At the same time the Austrian Parliament decided on an annual gradual decrease in the FITs. For on-roof photovoltaic installations the FIT will increase, according to information provided by the federation, from five per cent next year to twenty percent as of the year 2015. In the case of outdoor systems the intention is to have a progressive rate of between 2.5 and 17.5 percent.

According to the PVA, €50 million altogether will be available for subsidizing the tariffs of renewable energies – eight million of which allotted to photovoltaic technology. This represents a quadrupling of the development volume, says Kronberger.

Thus far €2.1 million are earmarked for solar subsidies. Kronberger appeared to be optimistic that Austria will now have a photovoltaic technology market as well. Up to now only 100 megawatts of output have been installed in the Alpine republic. By the year 2020 photovoltaics are expected to account for a share of eight percent of the country’s total electricity with a capacity of 5.5 gigawatts installed.

Kronberger stressed that it was very satisfying that intentions are also to reduce the existing waiting list for photovoltaics. A budget of €28 million with be available for this purpose starting in August. In addition, there will also be a "remainder pot" with €19 million with which wind and small hydropower – but also photovoltaic plants with internal power consumption – will be subsidized. The subsidy amount for these photovoltaic systems will be 18 cents per kWh. The amount of the "remainder pot" is to be reduced annually by €1 million.