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 imported coal.
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 tons.
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 western Austria.
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.
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