View of the Limberg Hydroelectric Power
Plant in the province of Upper Austria
A Drau River power plant in the province of Carinthia
Courtesy Embassy of Austria, Washington
Austria is highly dependent on foreign sources for energy. In
the early 1990s, it imported more than four-fifths of the
petroleum and petroleum products it needed, four-fifths of the
natural gas, and two-thirds of the coal, coke, and briquettes.
About two-thirds of Austria's electricity is produced
domestically from hydroelectric power plants, but most of the
remainder is generated from imported fossil fuels. Despite
extensive efforts to reduce power consumption after the first oil
shock of 1973, Austrian reliance on foreign sources of power rose
from 61 percent in 1970 to 70 percent in 1991. Nearly all
imported natural gas comes from Eastern Europe, as does most
Policies adopted during the 1970s and 1980s to conserve
energy and to use it more efficiently were to some degree
successful. Before 1973, for example, Austria's energy
consumption exceeded the growth of its economy. In the 1973-90
period, however, the annual increase in energy consumption
averaged only 0.8 percent while economic growth averaged about
2.4 percent a year.
Energy policies also aimed at decreasing the country's
reliance on oil and coal and at moving more toward renewable
and/or cleaner sources. Whereas petroleum, petroleum products,
and coal had supplied 73 percent of Austria's energy sources in
1970, by 1990 their share had fallen to 57 percent, while the
combined contribution of natural gas and hydroelectric power rose
from 23 to 34 percent.
Although real consumption of petroleum and petroleum products
has declined, Austria still relies heavily on fossil fuels for
energy. In 1991, of the energy consumed, 42 percent came from
petroleum and petroleum products, 20 percent from natural gas,
and 16 percent from coal. Electricity supplied only 13 percent of
the country's power, while wood, scrap, and other sources
supplied the remaining 9 percent.
Austria has limited domestic reserves of oil and natural gas.
Specialists believe that the entire region north of the Alps may
be oil bearing. As of the early 1990s, however, proven deposits
of oil and gas were found in Lower Austria, between Vienna and
the northeastern border, and in Upper Austria between the Enns
and Salzach rivers. Proven and probable oil reserves were
estimated in 1992 at 15.0 million tons, while certain and
probable gas reserves were put at 17.5 billion cubic meters.
Certain and probable coal reserves were estimated at 69.9 million
The county's largest refinery, at Schwechat near Vienna, is
operated by the state-owned ÖMV and refines all the petroleum
produced in Austria, as well as crude petroleum imported via a
pipeline from Trieste, Italy. The state firm exploits deposits in
eastern Austria, while a subsidiary of Mobil exploits deposits in
By the early 1990s, Austria obtained two-thirds of its
electrical energy from hydroelectric power plants. Nearly all the
remainder came from thermal power plants fired with fossil fuel.
Total electricity power production in 1991 was 45,000 gigawatthours , slightly less than the amount of electricity consumed.
During the 1980s, Austria had consistently been an exporter of
electricity. By the early 1990s, about two-thirds of Austria's
hydroelectric power capacity had been harnessed. Austrians
decided by referendum in 1978 not to generate power from nuclear
fuels, although the country's certain and probable uranium
reserves were estimated at about 500 tons
(see Domestic Issues
, ch. 1).
Data as of December 1993