Lower Austria, one of the country's nine states, has thrown its hat into the renewable ring. Following along from the recent surge in investment in renewable energies from the Scandinavian countries, Scotland and Morocco, Austria’s largest state has declared that it receives 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources, as reported by The Guardian.
The powerful Danube River flows through this Austrian state, a swath of land home to 1.65 million people. It flows through 10 countries, beginning in Germany and ending up draining into the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine. Over its length of 2,860 kilometers (1,777 miles), it has an average discharge of 2,000 cubic meters per second (70,629 cubic feet per second): that’s like having almost an Olympic-sized swimming pool's worth of water flowing by every second.
This river’s flow is so powerful in fact that two-thirds of Lower Austria’s electricity already comes from hydroelectric power generated by it. The mountainous geography of Austria means that vast amounts of energy can be generated from this high-capacity river rapidly flowing down through a series of very steep slopes. The remainder of the state’s energy is sourced from wind, biomass and solar power.
Although this state’s achievement is laudable, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Austrians themselves. After all, the country already produces 70 percent of its electricity using renewable energy sources, a higher national energy share than any other European Union nation, beating Sweden, Latvia, Portugal, and Denmark.
In terms of the nation’s total energy production – not just electricity generation – Austria is currently sourcing about a third from renewable sources. Remarkably, Norway is sourcing almost two-thirds of its total energy in this way, as of 2013.
The European Union (EU) has previously declared their intention to produce 20 percent of their total energy via renewable energy sources by the end of the decade. The individual targets of each nation have varied, from Sweden’s ambitious 49 percent figure to the United Kingdom’s far less impressive 15 percent. In fact, three EU nations have already made it: Bulgaria, Estonia, and Sweden. Overall, this huge amalgamation of nations is on track to reach its 20 percent goal, reaching 15 percent in 2013.
Each country has its own unique physical characteristics, populations and energy demands, meaning that it will be easier for some nations to meet these targets – particularly less-populated countries with geographic features (including powerful rivers) amiable to renewable energy production. Nevertheless, Austria’s achievement will be good news for those attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this month.