VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria may find it tough to achieve its goal of producing as much energy from renewable resources as it consumes by 2030 due to public opposition to new dams and other projects that disturb nature, the head of energy regulator e-Control said.
The 2030 target is part of a climate and energy strategy, which the coalition government’s conservative and far-right parties adopted last month. The goal is in line with the Alpine country’s commitment to the 2015 Paris climate accords.
Austria already generates about 75 percent of its annual energy consumption of 65 terawatt hours (TWh) from renewables thanks to its many rivers and lakes. The country, covering 84,000 square km, has about 130 large hydropower plants.
But adding more dams would require inundating an even larger area with water, which could spark protests.
“The real problem is the resistance on-site,” e-Control co-chief Andreas Eigenbauer told Reuters.
By 2030, Austria aims to generate the amount of energy it consumes each year from renewables, although it still expects to need fossil fuels to meet peak demand, but allowing it to export or storage excess levels.
“That is visionary,” Eigenbauer said of the target. “You need a drastic change in support in the population to reach that goal. If you do not get it, then it gets really difficult.”
Eigenbauer said Austria would have to generate around 80 TWh from hydro, solar and wind power by 2030 to reach the target, around 30 TWh more than now. He said the plan was to increase output equally from each of the three resources.
As well as the challenge of building new dams, he said adding enough wind parks would be tough due to lack of space. The only available area big enough was in forests, which cover nearly half of the country’s land area.
“But in this area as well, resistance is mounting,” he said, even when wind turbine rotors rise above the tree level.
Eigenbauer said there was potential to develop solar power on residential buildings, adding that more family homes had photovoltaic installations and major property developers were installing more solar equipment.
The government’s solar target was reachable, he said. But for further expansion dedicated solar plants would be needed and these were also unpopular, he added.
Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Edmund Blair