With more than 3,000 plants in operation, Austria has one of the most developed hydropower industries in Europe. A total installed hydropower capacity about 14.1 GW represents about 56% of the national total. Of this, some 5.7 GW are run-of-river and 8.4 GW are pumped storage plants. Only about 160 plants, some 5%, have a capacity larger than 10 MW but they nonetheless provide around 86% of total hydropower generation.
The estimated technical and economic hydropower potential is about 56.1 TWh, 75% of which has already been exploited. According to the Austrian Electricity Strategy – Empowering Austria – another 6 to 8 TWh could be developed by 2030 to meet steadily increasing power demand.
Furthermore, a new energy strategy, known as #mission-2030, stipulates that 100% of Austria’s electricity is to be derived from renewable sources by 2030. Implementing this policy will require an additional 30,000 GWh annually. As a result, an additional 10,500 MW of solar PV, 4,500 MW of wind and 1,500 MW of hydropower capacity are anticipated. However, the growth of renewable energy resources is causing grid fluctuations, leading to high grid loads and bottlenecks. This is posing a major challenge for Austria. Expansion and strengthening of the transmission grid is required alongside more responsive reserve power capacity.
About 100 MW of hydropower capacity are under construction and there are also some interesting future projects planned. These include the 900 MW extension of the Sellrain-Silz hydropower plant and the 180 MW Kühtai 2 plant in Tyrol. But not only large hydropower plants are in the planning stage. There are a number of interesting opportunities for small hydropower as well, especially in the western part of the country. Through to 2025 there are about 48 hydropower projects under development to meet Austria’s ambitious targets.