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Gas greenwashing still widespread among Austrian energy companies | Global 2000

The Austrian environmental protection organization GLOBAL 2000 has examined how large Austrian energy companies deal with natural gas and came to the conclusion that gas greenwashing is still widespread: “Seven out of twelve Austrian energy companies are still engaged in some form of greenwashing and incorrectly describe climate-damaging gas as environmentally friendly energy sources or use images of nature that give this impression. Three energy companies - EVN, Energie AG and TIGAS - can be described as obstinate blockers who are actively preventing the conversion from gas heating. Instead of glossing over natural gas and blockages, we expect clear phase-out plans and support from households and companies so that the energy transition towards clean and safe heat supply can succeed,” says Johannes Wahlmüller, climate and energy spokesman for GLOBAL 2000. 

Stubborn blockers are located in Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Tyrol
EVN, Energie AG and TIGAS are the most stubborn opponents of switching from gas heating to climate-friendly heating devices. EVN describes gas that is harmful to the climate as "environmentally friendly" and has been proven to lobby against a renewable heat law that could coordinate and plan the replacement of gas heating systems. That, although in a Integral survey commissioned by GLOBAL 2000 88% of Lower Austrians want a gas phase-out plan from EVN. 

The TIGAS describes gas as an energy source that will be available for another 200 years and thus ignores all climate science findings that call for a rapid exit from fossil fuels. TIGAS is now the only Austrian energy company that financially supports the installation of climate-damaging gas heating and gas heat pumps with 500 to 6.000 euros and thus acts against the climate targets of the federal and state governments. Politically, TIGAS has also spoken out against the exchange of gas heating systems and is obstructing an effective renewable heat law. Energie AG describes natural gas as a "natural product" and is also politically opposed to the conversion of gas heating systems.

“Both EVN, Energie AG and TIGAS are publicly owned. It is up to the provincial governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner and the provincial governors Thomas Stelzer and Anton Mattle to assume their responsibility and enforce a future-oriented corporate policy with the state energy suppliers. With their blockade attitude, EVN, Energie AG and TIGAS not only harm the climate, but also the owners and customers who are interested in a clean and affordable heat supply., said Johannes Wahlmüller, climate and energy spokesman for GLOBAL 2000. 

Greenwashing widespread but declining
But greenwashing is still widespread among other energy companies as well. Energie Graz describes natural gas as "environmentally friendly" and has continued to expand the gas network over the last year. Energie Steiermark describes natural gas as an "environmentally friendly form of energy" and has also not yet submitted a gas phase-out plan. Salzburg AG describes natural gas as "environmentally friendly" and sells CO2-compensated natural gas as "eco-gas", although fossil natural gas is burned, which is harmful to the climate. 

However, the analysis shows that some energy companies are now aware of the problem and are working on solutions. Wien Energie has made a clear commitment to phase out gas and is working on a gas phase-out plan. Linz AG wants to promote the expansion of district heating and reduce gas consumption, and Vorarlberger Illwerke and Kelag have also ended greenwashing of gas and are working with their customers to switch to climate-friendly forms of energy. Verbund, too, now describes natural gas as a climate-damaging energy source that must be replaced by alternative energies. 

Burgenland Energie has also ended greenwashing activities and publicly supports the gas phase-out. Incomprehensibly, one is involved via Netz Burgenland, a subsidiary, but at the same time in lobbying activities against a mandatory gas phase-out in the Renewable Heat Act. 

However, the positive trends are partially thwarted by the corporate policies of subsidiaries: SWITCH (Wien Energie, EVN, Burgenland Energie), redgas (Linz AG), go green energy (Energie Steiermark) or my electric (Salzburg AG) continue to operate against greenwashing of natural gas. For example, SWITCH offers climate-damaging natural gas and describes this as "heating with a clear conscience". “A consistent corporate policy is reflected in the fact that the phase-out of climate-damaging gas is being tackled at all levels. For this it is necessary to include the actions of the subsidiary companies. These must not act as "dirty" offshoots, but should also contribute to achieving the climate goals.", Wahlmüller continued. 

Significant progress visible compared to the previous year
Overall, GLOBAL 2000 sees clear progress compared to the Greenwashing Report from the previous year. Almost all of the energy companies surveyed have at least reduced their gas greenwashing activities, and five of the twelve major energy companies surveyed have stopped gas greenwashing altogether. The environmentally harmful subsidies for the installation of gas heating were also ended by all energy companies except TIGAS. Verbund and Energie Steiermark have discontinued the offer of climate-neutral gas, whereby fossil gas is presented as climate-friendly via offsetting. It is also positive that some energy companies, such as Wien Energie, have started to work on exit plans. “There is movement in the gas phase-out. Those who are working on phase-out plans today will be at the forefront of the energy transition tomorrow and will be able to offer clean and reliable heat supply. Those who block and prevent the gas phase-out today harm us all, their owners and their customers,” says Johannes Wahlmüller. 

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