Austrian largest power provider, Verbund, shut down the Mellach district heating plant in the Austrian state of Styria on Friday. The shutdown marked the end coal-fired power generation in Austria, because the district heating plant was the last operational coal-fired unit in the country. For 34 years, the power plant produced more than 30 billion kWh of electricity and 20 billion kWh of district heating. In the future, it will be kept ready for back-up, according to Verbund.
“The closure of the last coal-fired power plant is a historic step: Austria is finally getting out of coal power supply and is taking another step towards phasing out fossil fuels,” said Austrian Minister for Climate Protection Leonore Gewessler, noting that the government wants to switch a 100% power supply based on renewable energies by 2030. “This also gives us economic independence: We are currently spending €10 billion on imports of coal, oil and gas.”
Statements from the Ministry of the Environment are similar. “Austria is moving a little further towards climate neutrality,” said State Secretary Magnus Brunner.
With this step, the country may become a model for other European countries. “The conversion of the location into an innovation site is a good example of how the path from the fossil energy world to an innovative and renewable future can be taken,” added Brunner.
“On the way from old to new economy, Mellach remains an important location for us, which offers ideal conditions for the development of future technologies,” said Verbund CEO Wolfgang Anzengruber.
Verbund will now develop Mellach into an innovation hub. A pilot plant for high-temperature electrolysis and fuel cell operation for hydrogen production has already been set up. Large-scale battery storage systems are also being tested for use as buffer storage, for example in ultrafast charging stations for electro-mobility at the site, Verbund emphasized.
According to Austrian PV association Photovoltaic Austria, the country still has “a very intensive road” to travel. “Because Austria still produces a quarter of the electricity from fossil fuels. For a sustainable power supply, natural resources have to be used much more,” Managing Director Vera Immitzer told pv magazine.
The country’s installed PV capacity must be increased tenfold over the next 10 years in order to achieve 100% green electricity target by 2030. According to “Europe Beyond Coal” surveys, 15 European countries have already decided to phase out coal-based electricity generation, and 14 of them want to exit coal by 2030.