Until the mid 1970‘s energy supply policy was a side issue for the industrialized nations: all the energy services needed could be provided with the fossil sources of energy available in the market. The oil crisis in October 1973 was a turning-point in national and international energy policies – for the first time the extent of dependence on the oil-exporting countries was revealed, and the security of the supply of energy in future seemed to be in jeopardy.
As a reaction to the crisis, the International Energy Agency (IEA) was set up in 1974 as an autonomous entity within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with headquarters in Paris. Austria is one of 16 founding members; today the IEA has 29 members (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, UK). The IEA is committed to advising on and coordinating national energy policy in the member states.
The IEA‘s main concerns
> Energy security: promoting diversity, efficiency and flexibility within all energy sectors
> Economic development: ensuring the stable supply of energy to IEA member countries and promoting free markets to foster economic growth and eliminate energy poverty
> Environmental awareness: enhancing international know-ledge of energy options for tackling climate change
> Commitment worldwide: working closely with non-member countries, especially major producers and consumers, to find solutions to shared energy and environmental concerns
The IEA provides a forum for exchanging know-how and new insights from energy research worldwide. This makes it possible to take international developments into account early on when setting strategic priorities in Austria‘s research and technology policy. The IEA‘s energy technology initiatives are the basis for collaboration outside Europe, for example with Japan, the USA or Australia – but also with non-members such as China, India, South Africa, Brazil or Mexico, with their dynamic economies. Austrian firms and research organizations both benefit from this collaboration, since it is frequently the starting-point for follow-up projects and/or business deals. And the results often lead to further steps in standardization and quality assurance for energy technologies both within the EU and worldwide.
As an IEA member state Austria is required to document public-sector expenditure on energy research and report it to the IEA every year for central registration. As a result, developments and trends can be detected over the years, and lessons can be learnt for guiding research policy appropriately in future. The uniform survey method also makes it possible to make comparisons with other countries.
Every four years the IEA carries out a detailed audit of each member state‘s energy policy and energy research activities. The most recent IEA country report on Austria, in 2014, gave Austrian energy research good marks: expenditure on energy research has quadrupled since 2007, to 120 million Euro annually, putting Austria in sixth place in the IEA member state ranking. The IEA recommends that Austria ensures continuity in its energy research and increases the funds available long-term, provides even more encouragement for firms to invest in energy research, makes access to research findings as open as possible and encourages students to take subjects relevant to energy research.