In Austria, overall final energy consumption has increased again after the sharp decline in 2009, which was due to the financial crisis and corresponding economic recession. In order to address this trend, Austria’s Energy Strategy, the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and the Energy Efficiency Law have set a target value for primary energy consumption of 1050 PetaJoule in 2020 (compared to 1120 PJ in 2013).
As can be concluded from this overview of energy efficiency enhancement plans, Austrian energy and climate policy is characterised by a dense landscape of subsidies, including investment incentives and subsidised loans for the adoption of energy-efficient technologies. The subsidies are provided mainly at the federal level but also at the level of provinces.
Based on the case study on interactions between energy efficiency policies at different policy levels in Austria, the following key findings can be formulated:
- Overlaps between federal and regional subsidies for energy efficiency are unavoidable. The scope, instruments and target groups of different subsidy scheme are too often similar. This could be avoided through a detailed fine-tuning in the policy design and implementation stages, but in actual practice fine-tuning of federal government energy efficiency policies with all nine provinces is complicated.
- Overlaps in subsidies and over-subsidisation imply the risk that governmental funds are used inefficiently. As a result, the observed energy savings in households are achieved at relatively high public costs. Moreover, in terms of policy effectiveness, it is not entirely clear whether the observed reduction in household-level energy demand during the past few years can be fully attributed to the subsidy schemes. On the one hand, in terms of energy demand reduction Austria performs better than the EU-average, but this performance may also have been caused by the relatively warm winters ofn the last years.
- A possible way forward is to design a new target-oriented policy mix that is not entirely based on subsidies, but, for instance, enable combination of energy or environmental standards with subsidies.