Innovative Energy Technologies in Austria - Market Development 2015

In 2015 the market development of technologies for the use of renewable energy was influenced by repressive factors such as the continuously low price for oil fuel and natural gas, few renovations and new buildings as well as decreasing subsidies. Even so the partly clear market decrease of 2014 could be slowed down in 2015 or could even be changed to a market increase for some technologies.

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The biomass fuels gained an increase of 10.7 % in 2015 after a strong decrease in 2014 due to weather conditions. The dramatic decrease of the sales figures of biomass boilers in 2014 (-34.7 %) was massively reduced to minus 9.0 % in 2015.

On the other hand the market decrease of biomass stoves of minus 14.2 % in 2015 remained in the same range as the year before. New installations of photovoltaic systems had a slight decrease of -4.7 % in 2015 thus stabilizing quickly after the striking decrease in 2014 (minus 39.5 %).

The since 2009 ongoing trend of a persistent market decrease of solar thermal systems with a minus of 11.2 % continued in 2015. However heat pumps gained an increase of sales figures of 7.3 % on the national market.

The construction of new wind power plants in Austria decreased in 2015 by 21.4%, while sales of wind power supply industry have increased significantly from 2014 to 2015.

Solid biomass - fuels

The energetic utilisation of solid biomass has a long tradition in Austria and is still a very important factor within the renewable energy sector.

The consumption of final energy from solid biofuels increased from 142 PJ in 2007 to 179 PJ in 2013. In 2014, the consumption of solid biofuels decreased to 150 PJ due to relatively high average temperatures.

In 2015, the consumption of solid biofuels increased again to 166 PJ. The consumption of wood chips has been increasing since the beginning of the 1980s. In 2015, the wood chips consumption was 78 PJ and thus exceeds the consumption of wood logs with 63,8 PJ.

The very well documented wood pellet market developed with an annual growth rate between 30 and 40 % until 2006. This development was then stopped 2006 due to a supply shortage which resulted in a substantive price rise. But meanwhile the production capacity of 27 Austria pellet manufacturers has been extended to 1.49 million tons a year and this resulted in a market recovery.

In 2015, the national pellet consumption increased by 5 % compared to the previous year. The pellet production in Austria was around 14.5 PJ (850,000 t) in 2015.

Fuels from solid biomass contributed to a CO2 reduction of about 9.2 million tons in 2015. The whole sector of solid biofuels made a total turnover of 1,305 billion Euros thus creating 12,067 jobs.

The success of bioenergy highly depends on the availability of suitable biomasses in sufficient volumes and at competitive prices. The upgrading of residues, co-products and waste from agriculture to solid biofuels and the upgrading from other biogenic waste fractions to solid biofuels will be important in the upcoming years since it is seen as high potential for the future extension of the biomass base.

This development is determined by regulative policy measures such as the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union. Furthermore, the development of bioenergy has to be coordinated with other biomass based branches and stakeholders. Together new synergies should be established to maximise added value from (especially regional) biomass.

Solid biomass – boilers and stoves

The market for biomass boilers has steadily increased in Austria from 2000 until 2006 with a constantly high market growth. A market break of more than 60 % occurred 2007 for all types of biomass boilers with low prices for heating oil and the mentioned supply shortage of pellets with significantly increased pellet prices. The installation of additional pellet production capacities has eliminated the risk of shortage.

In 2009 the sales figures declined again essentially by 24 % due to lower oil prices caused by the global finance and economic crisis. In the years 2011 and 2012 the sales of pellet boilers increased strongly facilitated by rather high heating oil prices and moderate pellet prices. In 2012, the market for pellet boilers was growing again with 15 % increase of sales which was so far the historical maximum.

In 2013 the biomass boiler sales declined due to higher biofuel prices and the effect of investments in advance in the years after the economic crisis. This trend also continued in 2014 due to low oil prices and warm weather. 2015 a further decrease of the number of sales of all types of biomass boilers can be observed. In 2015, the sales figures of pellet boilers decreased by even 19.1 %, the sales of wood log boilers decreased by 9.1 % and the sale of small-scale (<100 kW) wood chip boilers decreased by 11.7 %.

In 2015 5,069 pellet boilers, 3,453 wood log boilers, 763 wood log-pellet combi-boilers and 2,308 wood chip boilers were sold on the Austrian market, all boilers concerning the whole range of power. Furthermore at least 1,967 pellet stoves, 5,861 cooking stoves and 10,016 wood log stoves were sold.

Austrian biomass boiler manufactures typically export approximately 75 % of their production. The biomass boiler and stoves sector obtained a turnover of 739 million Euro in 2015. This resulted in a total number of 3,378 jobs in Austria.

Research efforts are currently and in next future focused on the extension of the power range, further reduction of emissions with increased focus on the reduction of particulate matter (PM) emissions and the reduction of NOx emissions, on the development of specific new sensors for improved combustion control, optimisation of systems and combined systems (e.g. combined with solar thermal systems), annual efficiency improvement and on the development of market-ready small-scale and micro CHP systems.


For the first time after the early phase of innovators and stand-alone systems the Austrian photovoltaic market in 2001 experienced an upsurge as the green electricity bill (Ökostromgesetz) was passed before collapsing again due to the capping of feed-in tariffs in 2004.

After the absolute highest market diffusion of photovoltaic systems in Austria in 2013, the PV market has stabilized in 2014 and 2015. As a result grid-connected plants with a total capacity of 151,806 kWpeak and stand-alone systems with a total capacity of approximately 46 kWpeak were installed.

Hence, in 2015 the total amount of installed PV capacity in Austria increased to 151,851 kWpeak, which led to a cumulated total, installed capacity of 937.1 MWpeak. As a consequence the sum of produced electricity by PV plants in operation amounted to 937.1 GWh in 2015 and lead to a reduction in CO2 - emissions by 787,126 tons.

The Austrian photovoltaic industry is highly diversified covering the production of PV modules and inverters as well as other PV components and devices.

Furthermore there is a high density of planning and installation companies for PV systems as well as specialized institutions and universities, which play an important role in international photovoltaic research & development (R&D). Within those economic sectors 2,936 persons are employed full-time which raises solar technology to an overall substantial and yet growing market.

The average system price of a grid-connected 5 kWpeak photovoltaic plant in Austria decreased from 1,752 Euro/kWpeak in 2014 to 1,658 Euro/kWpeak in 2015, i.e. a reduction of 5.39 %. This observation confirms a high economic learning rate, which is highly correlating to the still increasing world market.

Especially the development of building integrated photovoltaic elements is of high importance for Austria. High added value seems to be achievable in this market branch. Furthermore, due to the increased deployment of PV-systems, the question of PV grid integration becomes an important national driver for Smart Grids.

Solar thermal collectors

In Austria solar thermal systems for hot water preparation and swimming pool heating faced a first boom period already in the 1980ies. At the beginning of the 1990ies it was possible to develop a considerable market in the field of solar combi systems for hot water and space heating.

In the period between the year 2002 and 2009 the solar thermal market grew significantly and reached the peak in 2009 due to rising oil prices but also due to new applications in the multifamily house sector and due to the tourism sector and due to applications in solar assisted district heating and industrial process heat.

After this phase of massive growths the sector is facing a declining market in the sixth year in a row. In the beginning of this development this was caused by the effects of economic and financial crisis but is now mainly influenced by low prices of fossil fuels and the growing competition with Photovoltaic systems.

By the end of the year 2015 approx. 5.2 million m2 of solar thermal collectors were in operation. This corresponds to an installed thermal capacity of 3.7 GWth. The solar yield of the solar thermal systems in operation is equal to 2,129 GWhth. The avoided CO2-emissions are 459,242 tons.

In 2015 a total of 137,740 m2 solar thermal collectors were installed, which corresponds to an installed thermal capacity of 96.4 MWth. The development of the solar thermal collector market in Austria was characterized by a decrease of the sales figures of 11 % in 2015. The export rate of solar thermal collectors was with 82 % like in 2015.

The turnover of the Austrian solar thermal industry was estimated with
228 million Euros for the year 2015. Therefore approx. 2,100 full time jobs can be numbered in the solar thermal business.

Heat pumps

The development of the Austrian heat pump market shows an early phase of technology diffusion in the 1980’s (mainly heat pumps for water heating) followed by a significant market decrease and a second increase starting from the year 2001 (now mainly heat pumps for space heating).

The second diffusion period came together with the introduction of energy efficient buildings which offered good conditions for an energy efficient operation of heat pumps. This is due to the low temperature needs in the heating systems and low energy consumption for space heating.

The total sales of heat pumps (home market and export market) increased from 2014 to 2015 by 5.8 %, from 31,137 plants to 32,931 plants. Therefore increases were observed in both the domestic market (+7.3 %) as well as the export market (+2.4 %). However, the growth in the domestic market was limited to the small capacity sector of heat pumps for space heating up to 10 kW (+21.4 %) and bigger than 20 kW up to 50 kW (+12.2 %).

All other power ranges and applications stagnated or declined. In the export market slight gains of 4.9 % could also be achieved in the sector heat pumps for water heating.

The percentage of the export market was 30.2 % in quantity of the total sales in 2015. In 2015 the Austrian heat pump sector (production, trade, installation and monetary value of heat) had an amount of total sales of 515 million Euro and 1,474 full time jobs. Thanks to the existing heat pumps in Austria about 560,980 tons CO2äqu of net emissions could be avoided in 2015.

Presently research and development of heat pump systems focus on innovative installations combined with other technologies: e.g. solar thermal systems for space and water heating or photovoltaic systems, new energy-services as air-conditioning, space cooling or applications in the context of renovating buildings in regard to humidity problems.

The range of innovations is completed with steady improvements of the technical energy efficiency, the use of new driving energy as natural gas and the use of the heat pump technology in smart grids.

Wind power

Austrian wind power has developed in different periods. The first diffusion period was based on the ”Ökostromgesetz 2001“ and led to 1 GWel installed wind power. After some years with too low feed-in tariff the ”Ökostromgesetz 2012“ allowed to install new capacities starting with 2011 and led to a total capacity of 2.409 MWel by the end of 2015. In 2015 108 turbines with a capacity of 322,8 MWel were installed.

This is an increase in capacity of more than 15 % compared to 2014. The highest growth rate has been realized in Lower Austria (30 %, 288,4 MWel), followed by Styria (4 % 4,6 MWel) and Burgenland (3 % 29,7 MWel). In 2015 nearly 5,2 TWh electricity have been produced by wind turbines. The annual wind energy production saves more than 4,3 Million Tonnes CO2equ (under the assumption that imported fossile ENTSO-E mix has been substituted).

In terms of technology the newly installed turbines in 2015 were dominated by the 3 MWel class. 99 turbines of the 3 MWel class have been installed in 2015.

In 2015 Austrian turbine operators generated a turnover of more than 320 Mio. Euro. New installations of 322,8 MWel triggered investments of around 530 Mio. Euro and created a domestic added value of 150 Mio. Euro. The turnover of the Austrian wind industry reached nearly 750 Mio. Euro in 2015, the majority (54,2 %) by the manufacturing industry.

A high export orientation of the domestic wind industry is reflected by an export quota of 69,5 % in the manufacturing industry, followed by the service industry (48,8 %) and the infrastructure sector (34,8 %). The main export markets are Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Based on the feed back of the questionnaires 1,938 persons were employed in the industry sector. Furthermore 383 persons were employed by turbine operators. Considering the effects elaborated in the study „Wirtschaftsfaktor Windenergie“, around 3,135 jobs come from turbine installation, operation and dismantling. In total the aggregated employment rate lies at 5,500 jobs (adjusted for duplications).