“Intelligent energy mix instead of full electrification”

Hamead Ahrary, Head of Central Europe at WINGAS, at the Handelsblatt Annual Conference in Vienna on trends in the Austrian heating market

Vienna/Kassel. The Handelsblatt Conference in Vienna has been one of the main meeting platforms for the Austrian energy industry for more than 20 years now. Once again, this year’s Conference was attended by Austrian politicians as well as industry and media representatives to discuss the status quo and upcoming developments. As in other European countries, transformation processes, energy efficiency, sector coupling, and digitization are among the concerns of market participants.

In the discussions around trends in the heating market – “How will Austria meet its demand for heating in 10, 20, 30 years?” – Hamead Ahrary, Head of WINGAS in Austria, pleaded above all for pragmatism – and a sensible combination of fossil and renewable sources of energy. Around 30 percent of Austria’s annual final energy consumption of more than 300 TWh is attributable to heating and hot water. “The heating market would therefore have an enormous potential for energy savings,” explained Ahrary at the beginning of his presentation. However, he continued, greenhouse gas emissions in the heating market had fallen significantly, and now accounted for no more than ten percent of Austria’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“This does not mean that there is no further need for action in the heating market; we should instead choose to take sensible and reasonable measures,” said Ahrary. “Full electrification of the Austrian heating market would be extremely expensive, and the large number of unresolved issues make this an unrealistic proposition. According to studies conducted by respected institutes in Austria, efforts to restructure the heating sector to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 will not be successful. Although natural gas will not be able to achieve the heating transition on its own, its versatility means that it will make a key contribution. This is why renewable and conventional energies will have to go hand in hand in restructuring the energy landscape, and hence also the heating sector.”

As a first step, the incentive system would have to be improved to achieve a faster rate of thermal renovation. After all, Austria’s renovation rate of less than one percent was well behind the country’s self-imposed targets. “What’s more, since 35 percent of all boilers in Austria are over 20 years old, significant reductions in CO2 emissions can easily be achieved if new and innovative technology is used. This is exactly where we need to make adjustment if we want to boost climate protection in the heating market quickly and effectively – and that’s not possible without natural gas,” explained Ahrary.

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