In July 2021, the Austrian Parliament passed the Renewable Energy Expansion Act Package (EAG Package), which came into force the same month. The aim of the EAG is to convert the country’s electricity supply to 100% electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and to achieve climate neutrality by 2040. This means that important requirements from the “Clean Energy for all Europeans” Package (CEP), in particular the Renewable Energies Directive (EU/2018/2001), of the European Union are transposed into national legislation in Austria.
Further, the new law offers the possibility to establish energy communities. For the first time, citizens can join together to produce, store, consume and sell energy across property boundaries.
The EAG distinguishes between two energy community models. The “renewable energy community”, which is locally limited, and “citizens’ communities”, which are geographically unlimited within Austria.
A renewable energy community (EEG) may produce, store, consume and sell energy (electricity, heat or gas) from renewable sources. These are limited to the local area. Private or legal entities, municipalities, local authorities or SMEs located in the vicinity of the generation facilities can become part of the energy community. The non-profit character is paramount for these communities.
Similar regulations apply to citizens’ communities (BEG) as to renewable energy communities, but here only electrical energy may be generated, stored, consumed and sold. However, this is no longer limited to renewable sources and can extend across several grid operators throughout Austria. As in the case of renewable energy communities, the members can be private or legal entities and here, too, the focus must not be on making a profit.
Energy communities are therefore a central building block for the energy transition. Users become producers, so every household can produce its own electricity or heat, becomes independent of energy price increases and can thus also actively contribute to the energy transition and protect the climate.
The Danube Transnational Programme STRIDE project, which aims to improve regional energy planning in the project countries in the Danube region by integrating smart grid concepts, can also make an important contribution to the energy transition. Prosumers – i.e., consumers who produce their own electricity; for example, through a solar system on the roof of their house or in their business – can sell their excess electricity to members within the energy community or profit from surpluses of other market participants through the use of a smart grid.
The STRIDE project provides an important exchange and knowledge transfer within the project partnership and promotes the development of smart and innovative electricity grids for the participating regions. Thus, the STRIDE project partners from Austria also benefit from the new legal framework.