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This will be the 29th citizen owned solar farm in Vienna, Source: City of Vienna

Vienna sells shares of new solar park to citizens

Vienna sells shares of new solar park to citizens

The move helps the city source funding for the project while allowing residents to profit directly from the energy transition

Vienna authorities announced they will let citizens buy shares in a new photovoltaic (PV) park being constructed in the city’s Central Cemetery. The city’s so-called ‘citizen-solar power plants’ have been around for a good ten years now and were conceived as a way for the Viennese to take part in the sustainable energy transition.

At the same time, they accelerate the sustainable energy transition and put incentives for broad public support towards renewable energy projects. Furthermore, if the city could keep the pace and scale it up, it would democratise the energy market in a very unique way.

Using private citizens’ investment potential

The project is quite reminiscent of what some ex-Communist countries like Slovenia and the Czech Republic did to facilitate the transition from a centrally planned economy to a free market. In the case of Czechia, the government issued vouchers to help expedite the privatization of state-owned companies, so citizens became partial owners.

The case of Vienna and the city’s push towards decarbonising the energy sector has two major similarities with the above-mentioned practice. One is that authorities want to use a large pool of small-scale investors and the other is that they want to accelerate a rapid transition. Though in this case, it is towards renewables, rather than towards a market economy.

Citizen-owned solar farms in Vienna

‘Citizen-solar power plants’ are also a great way for the Viennese to take part in the energy transition when they do not have the means to set up PV systems themselves. A good example of a previous project is the solar farm in Donaustadt.

In that project, all the available solar panels, priced 475 euros apiece, were sold off in just 26 hours. This allowed the city to quickly source the financing for the project and it guaranteed citizens a yearly income from the sale of the energy.

Over 10,000 Viennese citizens have already invested in similar projects and the city has sourced over 38 million euros this way. Currently, there are 28 ‘citizen-solar power plants’ operating in Vienna and Lower Austria. They produce 20.5 megawatts of electricity, powering over 8,400 households. They also reduce CO2 emissions by 12,000 tons per year.

The project for the Central Cemetery, on the other hand, will be number 29 and will produce 1.4 megawatts, making it the third biggest in the city. It should start operating this spring and power 570 households.

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