PV could be really profitable in Austria ... for some projects

At this point, there is very little doubt, that the new law on renewable energy will come to Austria. With or without modification, this proposal will be enacted in the next months. Austria will get a "market based" auctioning system like the one in Germany. And these auctions do have quite some potential.

This is a major step. So far Austria had only small limited subsidies for photovoltaics. The growth was not substantial, but Austria is in a favorable position. A lot of electrical energy from water, so there was no real need to push hard on renewables.

21 years ago, in February 2000, the German parliament enacted what proofed to be a milestone in energy law. In the beginning there was little notice of the "EEG".

I remember that in 2000 everybody was grateful that the "Y2K" bug had not done any harm. Al Gore was campaining to become president and Europe was preparing for the introduction of the Euro. Climate change was not on the political agenda, at least not that I remember until 2004 or later. The law in Germany was a small note in Austrian papers, like any other government initiative. But in the end it proved to be different.

Different because this law represented a serious opportunity to earn money. The first feed in tariffs were round about 50 cents per kWh.

This income opportunity made it very attractive and very successful.

Where does the current potential in Austria come from?

The potential is from price levels, growth potential and limited resources.

Price levels for large scale PV are low because of the existing German auction market. There is a very competitive market next to Austria with auctioning prices lower than 5cents per kWh. Also, there are institutional investors all around the world looking for such projects. What could be better for an investor that a long term infrastructure project in a country with low risk / negative government bond rates?

Resources are very limited for suitable projects.

Any large scale PV project is subject to the building code and the building code is very restrictive. As a matter of fact, large greenfield systems will not be possible for quite some time. The gouvernments in Upper Austria and Lower Austria made it very clear to the audience:

Greenfield systems are the last priority on their list. The states are on the way to define some guidance, but Lower Austria expects these to be in place "until 2022".

Whoever manages to get a building permit first to build a 5 MWp or 10MWp system in Austria has a huge opportunity. With prices down for large systems, even the 30% penalty on those large systems will not make a difference. In the auctions the first large systems will compete against smaller rooftop systems or waste disposal sites. Projects which are smaller and much more complex to realize.

The only question is: Who will make the money? The land-owners on the lease? The project developers on the installation, or the investors?

In any case the situation will be interesting to watch. Changes to the building code are usually slow and take some time to get approved. On the other hand the government has set the goal to bring 11 GWp to Austria.

My takeaway is that it is too early to predict a stable business model for the coming PV market in Austria. But it is for sure that there will be some kind of market.

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