The Austrian biomethane and gas industry recognises REpowerEU as an exceptional opportunity to implement renewable gases.
The European Commission’s new REpowerEU initiative of “common European action for more affordable, secure and sustainable energy” and to solve dependencies on gas imports from Russia recognises renewable gases such as biomethane and hydrogen, as these green gases are expected to make a significant contribution to the European energy system. Since the press conference of Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson on 08/03/2022, renewable gases have increasingly attracted attention in the Austrian media and are presented to a wide audience.
Industry representatives continuously raise awareness and inform the public about the diverse advantages of renewable gas technologies and the many possible application purposes of the domestic energy source biomethane.
REpowerEU declares the replacement of 100 bcm (1.131 TWh) of gas imports from Russia, and thus two thirds of Russian gas imports by the end of 2022, as its goal. Already the Fit for 55 package set a specific biomethane target of 18 bcm (204 TWh) by 2030. REpowerEU wants to double this target and the European Biogas Association (EBA) clarifies that the biomethane target of 35 bcm (396 TWh) by 2030 is achievable. Now, a legally binding anchoring of the biomethane target is required in order to leverage existing potential.
The recently published Austrian study “Renewable Gas 2040” (https://www.bmk.gv.at/themen/energie/publikationen/erneuerbares-gas-2040.html), which is supported by the Austrian Ministry for Climate Protection, has calculated the national potential for renewable gases to be around 0.96 bcm (11 TWh) of biomethane from anaerobic digestion and 0.84 bcm (9.5 TWh) of synthetic gas from biomass gasification. The study shows that Austrian biomethane production could reach around 1.8 bcm (20 TWh) by 2040. In comparison, the average annual Austrian gas consumption over the last 10 years was 7.9 bcm (89 TWh). Taking into account a future reduced consumption of fossil energy (such as natural gas, oil and coal) and an assessment of the sectors that will continue to rely on gas, the study results in an estimated total annual gas demand of 89 TWh by 2040. Despite a redistribution of energy sources and an increase in energy efficiency, Austria’s total gas consumption will remain unchanged.
Representatives of the Austrian biomethane and gas sectors assure politicians and the public that 20% of Austria’s gas imports can be covered by domestic biogas/biomethane in the medium term and even 45-50% in the long term.
The Austrian Compost and Biogas Association points out that an annual biomethane grid injection of 0.1 bcm (1.13 TWh) can be achieved by 2024 by converting operational biogas power plants to biomethane upgrading plants. An energy yield of 0.15 bcm (1.7 TWh) of biomethane can be achieved from biogenic waste contained in residual municipal waste through waste separation. By recycling organic waste and residual materials from agriculture and forestry, more than 1 bcm (11.3 TWh) of biomethane can be produced in Austria by 2030. The Austrian Gas and Heat Association estimates the biomethane potential from agricultural residues at around 4 bcm (45 TWh).
Considering studies and calculated renewable gas potentials, the legally binding national target of 0.4 bcm (5 TWh) for renewable gases could be easily achieved and even significantly exceeded, and 45-50% of Austrian gas consumption could be covered by locally sourced and produced renewable gas.
The potential and the technical know-how are available in Austria. So far, the price difference between fossil and renewable gases has been responsible for relatively low market demand. However, the holistic, reliable legal framework in Austria and the European Union is still lacking for a rapid and secure market expansion. In order to break down the manifold barriers, a holistic and far-reaching strengthening of renewable gases in relation to fossil gases is needed.
The industry points out that now (spring/summer 2022) is the right time to further develop the Austrian green gas strategy. The demand for the development of the expected Green Gas Act is now louder than ever.