The flexible generation mix in Austria
You can rely on Austria's power supply. This is ensured by a mix of different energy sources, which – within certain limits – can be used flexibly in conversion technologies. This mix ensures that generation capacities can be used optimally at any time.
So far, we have always been able to rely on Austria's power supply: in dry summers, in cold winters and in calm weather and when the sun doesn’t shine. The secret of this reliability lies in the flexible mix of different forms of energy:
- Hydroelectric power from run-of-river power plants covers a bulk of the base load.
- Hydroelectric power from storage power plants quickly provides renewable energy for peak demand.
- State-of-the-art thermal power plants generate electricity from gas, oil and coal and thus make their flexible contribution to both base and peak demand. Energy is used very efficiently in plants with combined heat and power: in addition to electricity generation, heat is generated here (as district heating) and provided to the end customer (e.g. households) as room heating via a supply network. In addition, consumer-oriented regional production contributes to the continuity of supply and regional value creation.
- New forms of renewable energy (including wind, biomass, biogas and solar energy) supplement the electricity production.
Together, the use of different forms of energy ensures that electricity can be reliably fed into the grid at any time, even if the form of energy is not fully available at all times or if the capacity for conversion is not always available.
Continuity of supply thanks to a flexible energy mixcity
The flexible mix ensures that different sources of energy can be used flexibly if an energy source is currently unable to perform at full capacity.
This was demonstrated in the drought year of 2003 for instance, when there was 20 per cent, in some cases even 30 per cent, less precipitation, which meant that there wasn't enough water for the power plants and thermal power plants had to compensate for the loss of hydroelectric power.
The short-term supply problems with gas at the turn of the year 2009 also showed how important it is to not be dependent on a single resource.
Another example is the extremely cold January of 2017. The hydropower plants produced a quarter less than in January of the previous year due to low water and icing and some failures due to repairs. Likewise, the wind power generation was low and all available thermal power plants were in use.
Electricity generation from renewable energies: environmental protection needs a reliable foundation
New renewable forms of energy within the meaning of the Green Electricity Act (small-scale hydropower, wind power, biomass and photovoltaic) make an important contribution to domestic electricity generation. One characteristic affects the large-scale use of these forms of energy: The power capacity of some green power plants is heavily weather dependent. If a plant produces less power or even fails, power must be available elsewhere – otherwise the power supply is compromised. That means that there must be rapid generation capacity because electricity cannot be stored. Pumped storage power plants offer the major possibility of being able to “store” electrical energy on an industrial scale. These facilities guarantee the fast availability of electricity and cover demand peaks.
Thermal electricity generation: efficiency pays off
Thermal power plants can be used to generate electricity efficiently. This is especially true for systems with high-efficiency cogeneration: in this case, too, the heat that is generated during electricity generation is used and fed into the district heating network. Modern plants achieve almost 90 per cent efficiency. Furthermore, thanks to state-of-the-art technologies and investments, the CO2 emissions of these power plants in Austria have been consistently reduced. Gas-fired power plants produce lower CO2 emissions than coal or oil. As the past has shown: In terms of the continuity of supply, it would be frivolous to rely solely on gas. Only the considered and coordinated use of all energy sources gives us the certainty that electricity of sufficient quantity and quality is available at all times and that the flexible mix will work.