The Ministry of Energy under Department Head Leonore Gewessler (Greens) referred to the new one in a broadcast Website Energie.gv.at, on which the E-Control data is now made available. The gas storage facilities are currently 95.5 percent full, one third is reserved for storage customers in Austria. A fifth was stored as a strategic reserve.
The rest is divided into an “immunized” amount that companies have stored in the event of a crisis, and gas that is reserved for foreign storage customers – according to the platform, they can still decide in which country and to whom they will sell the stored gas .
Lines via Germany and Italy
Since February 2022, dependence on Russian gas has been gradually reduced. While at the beginning of the year almost 80 percent of gas imports came from Russia, in September it was only 21 percent. According to E-Control, imports from other sources are mainly via routes through Germany and Italy. For example, line capacities of 40 terawatt hours (TWh) were booked to Germany and Italy. This enabled Austria to obtain gas from Norway, liquid gas and, to a lesser extent, gas from North Africa and Central Asia.
“We have taken a big step out of dependence on Russian gas. I would like to thank everyone who helped make this possible – the energy suppliers who tried to find new supplier countries and all the people who save energy at home,” explained Minister Gewessler, but: “We’re still there we haven’t reached the end of the road, we’re only really free when we can completely do without Russian gas.” They work on this every day “under high pressure”.
Price dropped, consumption increased
The platform also provides monthly electricity and gas consumption. According to Johannes Schmidt from the Institute for Sustainable Development at the Vienna University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), around ten percent less gas was used on average this year in September, October and November than in the years 2019 to 2021. In the year as a whole it has been around five percent so far Less gas was used than in the comparative periods from 2015 to 2021, he said on Monday at an event of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW).
“We are basically in a good starting position for the winter,” said Schmidt. The reservoirs are very well filled, as good as almost never before. “The gas storage facilities in Europe have been empty since Saturday” and thus relatively late in the year. “We were lucky with the weather, it was warm.” Savings in gas consumption were also observed beyond the weather.
According to Schmidt, it is not always entirely clear who is using which gas. “We can see that, adjusted for the weather, we saved ten to 15 percent in September and October,” but in November the savings fell to five percent. “We assume that many of these savings will come from industry,” said the expert. At the same time, the savings achieved in November also declined because the gas price on the spot market had fallen and the industries that bought there increased their consumption again accordingly.
Expert: Set savings incentives
However, gas consumption in electricity production is higher this year than in the past three years. “We have a shortage in the electricity sector,” said Schmidt. The reason for this is that little precipitation and low water levels have dampened electricity production from hydropower. Another burden is that production from nuclear power in France is currently well below target.
How to deal with the high electricity and gas prices is a political question. You can leave that to the markets, for example, and then save where it’s easiest, says Philipp Schmidt-Dengler from the Institute for Economics at the University of Vienna. “It is clear that this leads to social upheaval. To name one extreme: You wouldn’t leave a famine to the markets,” says the researcher.
The other extreme is to regulate prices, for example with a price cap. “The problem is that the gas is no longer there,” said Schmidt-Dengler. The challenge is therefore, on the one hand, to maintain the effect of the price mechanisms, i.e. incentives to save, and on the other hand to relieve the burden where it is necessary.
Social accuracy is important. “What is socially accurate is of course in the eye of the beholder,” says the expert. In any case, there was no social differentiation with the climate bonus and electricity price brake, and there were hardly any incentives to save.