Austrian solar industry wants Covid-recovery funds spent on renewables-friendly grid


The Federal Association for Photovoltaics in Austria has called for €1 billion of the €3.3 billion Covid-recovery funding allotted the nation by the EU to be spent on expanding the grid to accommodate more solar power generation capacity.

The industry body has proposed half of the estimated €2 billion investment required to modernize the Austrian grid could come out of the European ‘recovery and resilience fund' (RRF) cash, with the balance to be raised from project and grid fees, according to an article published on the website of regional trade organization Solarpower Europe.

Under the terms of the three-year RRF budget, published by the EU last week, Austria can apply for a maximum €3.46 billion of non-repayable grant funding as long as it is accompanied by national investment and approved as part of Austria's recovery and resilience plan. The EU-wide €672.5 billion fund was said to have a maximum grant element of €312.5 billion, although the state-by-state breakdown published by the bloc totaled €338 billion, indicating the figure may have been adjusted for possible currency fluctuation from the 2018 euro values used in the headline plans.

Of the €3.3/3.46 billion potentially available to Austria, some 13%–€429/449.8 million–can be disbursed as soon as the national RRF plan is approved, from early next month. With 70% of the total–€2.31/2.42 billion–available to the end of 2022, the balance of €990 million/1.04 billion will be distributed the following year.

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With the Bureau of Austrian Climate and Energy Funding having allocated €217 million for renewables expansion, decarbonizing industry and restructuring national energy and mobility systems this year, the solar industry is in no doubt about where spending priorities should lie.

Quoted on the Solarpower Europe website, Federal Association for Photovoltaics in Austria chairman Herbert Paierl said: “By using the EU recovery fund for the expansion of the Austrian electricity grids, the expansion of solar will not only provide safe, environmentally friendly and sustainable electricity but electricity that is also transparent and cost-effective. In addition, tens of thousands of domestic jobs will be created and domestic value creation is promoted. I am sure that this proposal will be supported by respective social partners and federal provinces.”

The RRF rules dictate at least 37% of spending be devoted to climate objectives and 20% to digital transformation–both of which could encompass grid infrastructure upgrades; and stipulates no projects backed by the scheme should cause significant harm to the bloc's environmental aims.

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