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COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level responses

Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case AT-2020-12/580 – measures in Austria

No energy shutdown when payment difficulties occur

Keine Energieabschaltung bei Zahlungsschwierigkeiten

Country Austria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 16 March 2020 – 30 June 2020
Type Non-binding recommendations or other texts
Category Measures to prevent social hardship
– Keeping a safe home
Author Bernadette Allinger (Forba) and Eurofound
Case created 13 April 2020 (updated 05 October 2020)

Background information

In the Corona crisis, not only is the fear of a breakdown in the country's power supply increasing. Many people are even more concerned with how they should pay their next electricity bill.

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler (Green Party) and Wolfgang Urbantschitsch (Board Member of E-Control) explained why these concerns are unfounded. Even if there are payment difficulties, there will be no shutdowns on the part of the energy suppliers.

Content of measure

Until further notice, in any case until 1 May 2020, 'no one in Austria will turn off electricity, gas or heat,' the Minister and the E-Control board assured. This applies to the population, but also to micro and small companies. Energy minister Ms Gewessler said it was a quick and unbureaucratic consensus in the industry. 'This is a good and important contribution,' said the Green politician. However, this is not a legally fixed regulation. The energy suppliers would share the risk with the network operators, said the minister responsible for energy and the environment. According to Urbantschitsch, it is also possible to arrange a deferral of payments or an installment plan with the utilities, or at most a reduction of advance payments for companies, since there is a reduction in energy consumption for company closings.

Chamber of Labour AK favours legal regulation

The major energy suppliers for electricity and gas have already announced that they will not switch off during the Corona crisis. The AK also expressly welcomes this voluntary principal. "But all energy suppliers, including small and above all local and district heating suppliers, have to be brought on board," says Christa Schlager , head of the economic policy department at the AK. That seems to have succeeded with Thursday's agreement.

According to E-Control, there were around 43,000 shutdowns in electricity and around 4,000 in gas in 2018. There are no official shutdown figures for the heating sector, but one thing is certain: In Austria around 140,000 people could not afford to keep their home sufficiently warm in 2018. This is also shown by a current study of heating types by the AK. Therefore, the AK is now calling for a legal shutdown ban for electricity, gas and heat during the duration of the Corona crisis.

Use of measure

Unknown.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Does not apply to workers Does not apply to businesses Applies to all citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Employers' organisations
Company / Companies
Companies

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Consulted No involvement
Form Unknown Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Peak or cross-sectoral level

Involvement

It seems that the Chamber of Labour was somewhat involved, even though the extent is unknown. However, their demand seems to have been taken into the sector agreement (see source).

Views and reactions

Chamber of Labour demanded the measure.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      D - Electricity, Gas, Steam And Air Conditioning Supply D35 Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

This case is not occupation-specific.

Sources

  • 26 March 2020: Corona crisis: Nobody is turned off electricity, gas or heat (kurier.at)
  • 30 April 2020: Electricity shutdown further suspended (www.ots.at)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), No energy shutdown when payment difficulties occur, case AT-2020-12/580 (measures in Austria), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.