Within the Austrian energy supply, heating holds a central position. Thereof, district heating (including hot water generation) accounts for a 21% share of the total national heat demand. Approximately one quarter of Austrian citizens are served by district heating. It is delivered in an extremely environmental manner, as renewable sources such as waste, biomass and others account for around 50%. When including natural gas, even 90% of district heating is generated using CO2-neutral or low CO2 primary energy.
In 2015, district heating networks supplied the residential sector (40%), services (44%) as well as manufacturing and industry (16%). In the same year, approximately two thirds of the heat supplied to the district heating networks was produced in highly-efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plants. However, this trend is decreasing due to economic circumstances, where gas-fired CHP plants particularly have difficulties operating in a cost-efficient way. There is a movement emerging whereby district heating generation is progressing from highly-efficient CHP plants to heating-only boilers.
As displayed in the graph, district heating covered 14% of heat demand in Austria in 2014. The development of a new Austrian energy strategy up to 2030 is in progress and it is expected that district heating will occupy an important role in the national heat policy. This is supported through the 2008 law for expansion of district heating and cooling (WKLG), which provides state aid of up to 60 million EUR per year for the construction of new district heating and cooling infrastructure.
However, there are some key barriers such as the uncertain economic situation on the global energy market, the mentioned difficult economy of CHP plants and the lack of clear and stable framework conditions. District heating companies have therefore reduced their investment intentions, and the ten-year investment volume for the period 2016 to 2025 decreased to 0.8 billion EUR.