Until the beginning of the 1990s, emission-intensive forms of energy coal and oil accounted for half of the entire district heating production in Austria’s heating and cogeneration plants. In 2017, district heating was predominantly generated by biogenic fuels and natural gas, CO2-neutral or low-CO2 primary energy sources.
Above all, the use of biogenic fuels for district heating has developed dynamically between 1990 and 2017. Whereas biogenic fuels were used for only 7% of heat generation in 1990, today almost 50% of heat generation is generated on the basis of biogenic fuels. The use of biogenic fuels has increased almost twenty-fold over this period.
The use of natural gas has tripled between 1990 and 2017. However, the relative importance of natural gas decreased from 38% in 1990 to 36% in 2017. Nevertheless, natural gas represents the second most important energy source for heat generation.
The network length has increased by almost 900 km within the last 5 years. The cumulative increase in the connected load over the period from 2012 to 2017 was around 1,000 MW and was achieved through the development of new development areas, as well as through retrofitting in buildings that were already supplied with district heating, as well as congestion in multi-story residential buildings.
In order to drastically reduce the energy demand in the heating sector and convert the heat supply to renewable energy sources, the Austrian Federal Government launched the start of an Austrian heat strategy in early 2019. Together with around 200 stakeholders from business, interest groups and consumer protection, a comprehensive package of measures is being developed in order to achieve the full decarbonisation of the Austrian heating market.
While District Cooling was for many years only present in Vienna and Linz, several projects were completed in Lower Austria since 2012, especially in cooling hospitals. Today, District Cooling is in the same position as District Heating was in Austria in the 1970s, in terms of market penetration. In view of the ecological and commercial benefits generated by District Cooling, it has a bright future and the network is expected to expand considerably over the coming decades.