Austria says goodbye to coal

Austrian largest power provider, Verbund, shut down on Friday the Mellach power plant in Styria, marking the end of coal-fired power generation in Austria, news wires reported. The district heating plant was the last operational coal-fired unit in the country. For 34 years, the power plant produced more than 30 billion kWh of electricity and 20 billion kWh of district heating. In the future, it will only be kept ready for back-up.

“The closure of the last coal-fired power plant is a historic step: Austria is finally getting out of coal power supply and is taking another step towards phasing out fossil fuels,” Austrian Minister for Climate Protection Leonore Gewessler said, noting that the government wants to switch a 100% power supply based on renewable energies by 2030. “This also gives us economic independence as we are currently spending €10bn on imports of coal, oil and gas.”

 “Austria is moving a little further towards climate neutrality,” said State Secretary Magnus Brunner. With this step, the country may become a model for other European countries. “The conversion of the location into an innovation site is a good example of how the path from the fossil energy world to an innovative and renewable future can be taken,” he added.

Verbund will now develop Mellach into an innovation hub. A pilot plant for high-temperature electrolysis and fuel cell operation for hydrogen production has already been set up. Large-scale battery storage systems are also being tested for use as buffer storage, for example in ultrafast charging stations for electro-mobility at the site.

But according to Austrian PV association, the country still has “a very intensive road” to travel. “Austria still produces a quarter of the electricity from fossil fuels. For a sustainable power supply, natural resources have to be used much more,” Managing Director Vera Immitzer said. The country’s installed PV capacity must be increased tenfold over the next 10 years in order to achieve 100% green electricity target by 2030, she pointed out.

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