In a move welcomed by environmental organizations, Austria’s last operational coal-fired power station has shut down and Verbund studies applications for green hydrogen
With the cessation of coal operations in the Mellach district heating plant (Styria), the era of coal-based electricity generation in Austria ended. With the expiry of the heat supply contract after the end of the heating period, VERBUND, as announced, permanently ceased coal operations in the Mellach district heating plant south of Graz. The Mellach district heating plant was the last coal-fired power plant in Austria to generate electricity and heat using hard coal.
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“The closure of the last coal-fired power plant is a historic step: Austria is finally getting out of coal from electricity and is taking another step towards phasing out fossil fuels. By 2030, we will convert Austria to 100 percent green electricity. The energy system will be clean, affordable and, above all, converted safely. This also gives us economic independence: We are currently spending ten billion euros on imports of coal, oil and gas. I am pleased that with the exit from coal, VERBUND is showing what we can achieve if we create a clean future together, ”said Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler.
“With this day we reach a major milestone: Austria is moving a little further towards climate neutrality. The economy is again proving to be a strong partner in the fight against climate change. Because we have set ourselves ambitious goals that we can only achieve if everyone pulls together. With the closure of the last coal-fired power plant, Austria is showing the way to a sustainable future and is becoming a role model for others in Europe. The conversion of the location into an innovation site is a good example of how the path from the fossil energy world to an innovative and renewable future can happen, ”said State Secretary at the Environment Ministry Magnus Brunner.
“Coal power generation in Austria is history. The future belongs to renewable energies and VERBUND will continue to make a significant contribution to the 100 percent green electricity target in the coming years, ”says VERBUND CEO Wolfgang Anzengruber. The last coal-fired power plant produced electricity and heat for the Styrian capital of Graz for 34 years and can in future be used for a short time with natural gas as fuel for supraregional power grid support. “On the way from old to new economy, Mellach remains an important location for us, the ideal conditions for the development of future technologies. ”
Location for the energy future
Mellach, centrally located south of Graz and connected by road, rail, and power grid, is being developed into an innovation hub: With Hotflex, a pilot plant for high-temperature electrolysis and fuel cell operation was built, in which electricity is converted into hydrogen. Large-volume battery storage systems are also being tested for use as buffer storage, for example in ultrafast charging stations for e-mobility on site.
With the cessation of coal operation in the Mellach district heating plant, VERBUND has completely abandoned coal-based electricity generation. In the past 15 years, all coal-fired power plants such as in Dürnrohr, Voitsberg, Zeltweg or St. Andrä have been shut down. The even older oil power plants such as Neudorf-Werndorf or Pernegg were or will be dismantled to the “green field”.
History of the Mellach power plant
The district heating plant was built from 1983 to 1986 and, in addition to an electrical output of 240 megawatts, was also able to generate up to 230 megawatts thermally as district heating, primarily for the greater Graz area. Since commissioning in December 1986, the boiler and steam turbine have been in operation for around 180,000 operating hours. For 34 years, the district heating plant supplied about 80 percent of the entire district heating required in Graz. The reliable supply of heat from Mellach formed the basis for the forced expansion of the district heating supply in and south of Graz, which led to a significant decrease in pollutant emissions from individual heating systems in the greater area of the Styrian capital.
The Mellach district heating plant was operated until recently as a highly efficient power plant with the latest flue gas cleaning and generated more than 30 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 20 billion kilowatt-hours of district heating in 34 years of operation. VERBUND will keep the power plant operational for the requirements of so-called bottleneck avoidance on the natural gas fuel basis. The power plant can thus be called up temporarily for supraregional power grid support if required. In this function, the neighboring gas-fired combined-cycle power plant Mellach is also in regular use.