Energy Prices Shoot Up in Austria

As the economy recovers, demand is driving energy prices up – increasing heating bills as well as the cost of other goods and services. Austria is encouraging people to heat homes with renewables.

Consumers are seeing their heating and petrol bills jump and, as energy costs spread across the economy, the prices of other goods and services are rising too. In October, these increases drove inflation to a high of 3.7%, which hasn’t been recorded in years, according to a statement by the Austrian Energy Agency on Monday. Overall, energy prices are 22.8% higher than in October 2020.

Diesel prices increased by 34.8% over the last year, super petrol by 29.4%, gas by 15.6% and electricity by 9.6%. Most astonishing is the 60.8.% price increase for heating oil – which jumped 12.3% between September and October 2021 alone.

No end in sight

An end to price hikes, the Austrian Energy Agency said, is not in sight. “A comprehensive assessment of developments in the coming months has been complicated by a flood of complaints in response to existing price increases, as well as due to premature contract cancellations,” they said.

They say consumers lack information about gas heating in particular. “People frequently assert that gas heating can be provided with green gas (e.g. biomethane),” but in reality, according to scientific head Herbert Lechner, there is only enough green gas available “for a couple thousand of the 900,000 gas-heated households. Moreover, green gas is indispensable for the decarbonization of industry, while there are other available solutions for heating.”

Subsidies for green heating

The switch to other green heating solutions is federally subsidized under the environmental program “Holt die Leichen aus dem Keller”, which translates literally to “Get the corpses out of the basement,” and metaphorically to “Get the skeletons out of your closet.” This will support Austria’s climate goals in the wake of the UN Climate Summit, COP26.

Private households can receive up to 7,500 euros in funding for switching to renewable heating sources, while building owners can receive up to 10,000. “Highly efficient, renewable” energy sources include the Fernwärmenetz, which uses heat from garbage incineration; thermal heating pumps; and biomass heating systems. (Those interested should check out this website; also, some federal states have additional funding programs.)

The Austrian Energy Agency called the program sensible, and not just for climate reasons: “Expenditures for oil and gas imports will cost us 6 billion euros more this year, moving from 4 billion in 2020 to a forecasted 10 billion. Given the extremely tight economic situation caused by corona, a 6-billion-euro loss of purchasing and investment power is particularly painful.”

Naomi Hunt
Naomi Hunt is a managing editor at Metropole, with roots in the U.S. and Malaysia that have long been buried under Austrian soil. She previously served as a program manager at the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) and was a Senior Press Freedom Adviser at the International Press Institute (IPI).

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