Territorial perspectives and development potentials: Austria

Jan 9, 2024

Austria committed to become climate-neutral by 2040, thus the country has set ambitious targets when it comes to renewable energy sources (RES): by 2030, Austria wants to obtain its electricity supply completely from RES. Green hydrogen is an important enabler to reach this goal.

In 2022 the Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology published the Hydrogen Strategy for Austria (1) which is based on four pillars and sets the following targets – see Figure 1

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Figure 1: Pillars and targets of the Austrian Hydrogen Strategy (source: own representation)

An important point of the strategy is the definition of the strategic use of hydrogen within hard to decarbonise sectors as the broad applicability of hydrogen contrasts with the limited supply and production potential of hydrogen at present. Thus, the following sectors will be prioritized:

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Figure 2: Strategic use of hydrogen (source: BMK, 2022)

To promote hydrogen-related projects the following have been put in place in the Renewable Energy Package (Erneuerbaren-Ausbau-Paket):

Subsidies of up to 45 % of the planning and construction costs for certain facilities to produce hydrogen through electrolysis or synthetic gas (annual funds: EUR 40m).
Exemptions from certain network and other charges as well as certain taxes.
Clarification that hydrogen will fall under the Austrian Gas Act and may therefore be injected into the gas grid.
A regulatory basis for the introduction of a “green gas quota” linked to a “green gas” certificate trading scheme.
Austria wants to take a pioneering role:

Numerous Austrian companies, research institutes and universities have focused their research and development efforts already for a long time on fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. Technologies for hydrogen production and use have made great strides in recent years. Intensive research in this area is under way in Austria, and pioneering concepts and solutions are being developed and implemented. The importance of hydrogen can be furthermore underlined by a breakdown of the Austrian energy research expenditures into individual categories. It shows that no other category received more funding in 2022 than R&D projects on the topic of “hydrogen”(2). Selected lighthouse projects are (3):

HyTruck & FC4HD: The goal is to develop 40 tons long-haul zero emission semi-trailer truck for the decarbonisation of the mobility sector.
HyTrain: The project aims to develop the world’s first hydrogen-powered narrow-gauge train to the point where it can be used in the mobility sector.
Hygrid: In the course of the project, the first Austrian natural gas steel pipeline section will be re-purposed for hydrogen transport and upgraded to a demonstration facility. The former natural gas pipeline will be operated with pure hydrogen at real-life conditions to gain knowledge for practical applications.
Currently approximately 180 companies in Austria deal with hydrogen technologies and interest is continuously increasing (4)

A wide range of best practice examples in Austria is supported by the Climate and Energy Fund. One of the most comprehensive projects supported is the “Hydrogen Initiative Showcase Region Austria Power & Gas” (in short WIVA P&G (5)). It pursues the goal of demonstrating the conversion of the Austrian economy to a CO2-neutral structure with the production and use of renewable hydrogen as a core component in the areas energy, mobility and industry. Until now the there have been 19 R&D-projects within the flagship region. For more details visit: https://www.wiva.at/?lang=en

Other initiatives and stakeholder groups in Austria are:

Hydrogen Partnership Austria (HyPA) (6): The cluster was founded in 2021 and pools the technological and economic expertise of enterprises, research institutes and platforms from all over Austria in the area of hydrogen technology.

H2-mobility Austria (7): The H2-Mobility Austria consortium, which consists of 11 notable Austrian partners, focuses on the future role of trucks in freight transport. The common goal is to advance hydrogen fuel cells for heavy-duty transport in Austria and make it available. 2,000 fuel cell trucks that will be powered by green hydrogen shall be put into operation by 2030.

Green hydrogen today, tomorrow and in 2040

Recently, innovations from research are increasingly finding their way into practice. Currently there are seven electrolysers installed that produce green hydrogen. One flagship project is the installation in Völs near Innsbruck (Tyrol), where Europe’s largest single-stack electrolysis plant is located on the MPREIS company premises. The hydrogen produced is used at the bakery and as fuel for the company’s own fleet of fuel cell trucks (at the moment one is in operation) (8). The existing fleet is to be converted to fuel cell trucks by 2026.

At the SAN Group company site, Fronius built a so called “SolHub”, an H2 filling station with integrated 0,3 MW PEM electrolyser.

Also in Gabersdorf (Styria) a green hydrogen production site is in operation since May 2023 (project “Renewable Gasfield”). The pilot plant features a 1-MW electrolyser powered by a nearby solar park with a collector area of 6,000 m2. When fully expanded, the site is expected to produce 300 tonnes of renewable hydrogen annually, which will be used in industry and for fuel cell buses. In this context, the city of Graz tests a fuel cell bus, which is also part of the R&D project “HyBus Implementation” (9). Another project in the region of Styria is HotFlex which operates a reversible 150 kW SOEC in the CHP power plant in Mellach.

The world’s first hydrogen storage facility in an underground porous reservoir (developed in the lead project “Underground Sun Storage 2030” (USS 2030) (10) is in operation since April 2023. In this unique cross-sector demonstration facility, solar energy is converted into green hydrogen by water electrolysis and stored in pure form in an underground natural gas reservoir in Gampern (Upper Austria).

In Vienna, the capital city of Austria, a 3 MW electrolysis plant and a hydrogen refuelling station will be in operation in the next months. The green hydrogen will allow Wiener Linien, as a first step, to operate 10 hydrogen busses by 2025 (11).

An important project is also the H2 Roadmap elaborated by the Austrian Gas Grid Management AG (AGGM) which provides a strategy for the transition from a fossil to a renewable gas grid. The existing Austrian gas grid has enormously high transport capacities. AGGM’s position: “The foundation for tomorrow’s hydrogen infrastructure is therefore already being laid today.” (12)

The first step to realize the roadmap is the H2 Collector East (13) which aims to build a 100% H2-ready gas pipeline – partly by adapting existing infrastructure. From 2026, renewable hydrogen will be transported from northern Burgenland to Lower Austria and Vienna. The hydrogen will be produced in Austria’s (so far) largest electrolysis plant, PanHy (Pannonian Green Hydrogen – a project of Verbund and Burgenland Energie) which is planned to have 300 MW in the final expansion stage.

Until 2040, the Austrian hydrogen strategy estimates a total annual hydrogen demand of 67 to 75 TWh, whereby for future demand in the transport sector – especially for long-distance trucks and buses, but also for aviation – there are no explicit quantity indications. A study (14) published by the Institute for Clean Technology estimated a hydrogen demand for heavy-duty vehicles of about 13.9 TWh until 2040.

The Renewable Energy Package 2021 undoubtedly was a first step towards achieving the ambitious goals set both by the EU and the Austrian Government. However, the road to becoming a hydrogen nation is still long. The most pressing challenges are:

the lack of clear market regulations, especially resolving questions regarding overlaps between the gas and the electricity sectors,
the need for even further subsidies to ensure the competitiveness of green hydrogen, as today hydrogen produced in Austria is not economically viable,
the need to adapt planning and permitting regimes, such as the Seveso, IPPC and IEA regimes;
While some of the obstacles can be tackled (at least to some extent) on a national level, others such as market regulations and certain questions regarding the planning and permitting regimes must be resolved on an EU level.

Authors: Evelyn Hummer & Robert Pratter (4ward Energy Research GmbH)


1 BMK (2022): Hydrogen Strategy for Austria, BMK, Vienna.

2 HyPA (2023): Energieforschungserhebung, https://www.hypa.at/news/wasserstoff-belegt-platz-1-bei-forschungsausgaben (accessed 17.08.2023)

3 VEREIN WIVA P&G (2023):Projects, https://www.wiva.at/activities/?lang=en/#projekte (accessed 20.07.2023)

4 Energieinstitut der Wirtschaft (2021): Wasserstoff Zentraler Baustein der Energiewende, EIWInsight 1/2021, Wien.

5 VEREIN WIVA P&G (2023): Hydrogen Flagship Region, https://www.wiva.at/?lang=en (accessed 20.07.2023)

6 HyPA (2023): Hydrogen Partnership Austria, https://www.hypa.at/ (accessed 20.07.2023)

7 Bakir, E. (2023): Zukunft der Mobilität: Wie Wasserstoff zur Klimaneutralität beitragen kann, https://www2.deloitte.com/at/de/seiten/strategy-analytics/articles/h2-mobility-austria.html (accessed 20.07.2023)

8 MPreis (2023): MPREIS Wasserstoff, https://www.mpreis.at/wasserstoff (accessed 20.07.2023) 9 https://www.hybus.eu/

10 RAG Austria AG (2023): Underground Sun Storage 2030, https://www.uss-2030.at/en/ (accessed 20.07.2023)

11 FGW (2023): Grüner Wasserstoff aus Wien für Wien, https://www.gruenes-gas.at/ (accessed 20.07.2023)

12 AGGM (2023): H2 Roadmap, https://www.aggm.at/en/energy-transition/h2-roadmap/ (accessed 21.07.2023)

13 AGGM (2023): H2 Roadmap, https://www.aggm.at/en/energy-transition/h2-roadmap/ (accessed 21.07.2023)

14 ICT (2022): Die Bedeutung von Wasserstoff für die Energiezukunft der österreichischen Wirtschaft, Vienna.