During a festive event held at the House of Industry on September 7, 2023, an overview of past and future energy policy challenges was presented by way of a tour d’horizon:
- Economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s led to a sharp increase in energy demand. As a result, the demand-driven provision of energy was at the forefront of political and social concerns. This period was characterized by centralized state-owned energy supply companies. The monopolistic market structure enabled low-risk investment in large power plants for centralized energy production. Investment security was ensured by state support as well as regulated tariffs.
- At the end of the 1980s, a paradigm shift took place in European and Austrian politics with regard to the structure of the energy industry, which was characterized by monopolies. The horizontal and vertical interdependencies of the electricity and gas industries led to economic inefficiencies. At both the technical and organizational levels, energy supply was considered sluggish and inefficient. In the course of the European internal market integration of the 1990s, the electricity and gas industries were reformed. The changes fell into three categories.
- Vertical interconnections were to be broken up through so-called “unbundling”.
- Competition was to be intensified and Europeanized.
- Network operators were regulated with regard to network access rights for third parties and remuneration for network services.
- In large parts of the Western world, the 1990s were characterized by a culture of state deregulation and privatization. In the energy sector, the hope was to provide a more efficient and cost-effective energy supply and to reduce the burden on the state. The regime of energy supply changed fundamentally for the first time since the 1950s. Regulations governing the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity were standardized at the European level. The focus was on opening up the individual energy markets, unbundling vertically organized energy companies and ensuring non-discriminatory network access. The establishment of electricity trading exchanges transformed pricing on the basis of average costs into pricing on the basis of marginal costs. In the late 1990s, climate protection was also institutionalized. The Kyoto Protocol (1997) for the first time set binding targets under international law for limiting greenhouse gases.
- Today, the discussion is dominated by the Russia-Ukraine war, climate change and global warming. Austria has set itself the goal of becoming climate neutral by 2040.
Throughout the years, WEC Austria has seen its work as a contribution to solving the energy trilemma, namely ensuring a secure energy supply, making the energy system sustainable and providing energy at affordable prices for business and consumers. We also followed this motto during the Covid 19 pandemic with all its health, social and economic implications. And in light of the Russia-Ukraine war and extreme weather events, solving the energy trilemma is more urgent than ever.
We would like to thank our gold sponsors, partners and supporters for their cooperation in the course of the festive event 100 years World Energy Council Austria.
Additionally we would like to thank Renate Leitner for the graphic design.