Baseline study energy community Schönbühel-Aggsbach

1. Context and background

In Austria there are two different forms of energy communities foreseen by law since 2021[1]. Citizen’s energy-communities (BEG – Bürger-Energiegemeinschaft) has no geographical boundaries (can be serving whole Austria) and the renewable energy communities (EEG – Erneuerbare Energiegemeinschaften) which is bound to the limitations of the energy supplier’s infrastructure. In Austria, energy communities currently vary, encompassing small, volunteer-run organisations with minimal assets to professionally managed organisations. Depending on the form of the legal entity the organisations are predominantly either cooperatives or associations, which in both cases count members as users/consumers of the energy users as well as energy producers. Due to legal requirements to form a cooperative, many small-scale organisations choose the association form as it is easier and faster to be set up. Depending on the legal form, different facilitators can support the energy community. Out of hundreds of energy communities in Austria, only 20 energy communities used the cooperative form and 6 of them were in the country Lower Austria. [2] For instance the 6 in Lower Austria were supported by the Austrian Cooperatives Federation, as well as the Volksbanken (National Banking organisation similar to a credit unions and strong in the county of Lower Austria – especially in the rural area). 

1.1. National Context

In contrast to the widespread of energy communities, PED is a new and not-so-known concept. Certification of single buildings has a long tradition, and the promotion of energy-efficient and sustainable buildings is a high priority in the country. The “klimaaktiv” certification honoured low-energy houses and passive houses, nowadays giving certification to all kinds of buildings (bronze, silver, and gold), including positive-energy buildings [3]. The qualification basis is evolving with the state of the art and they evaluate the buildings in five categories, named “quality and infrastructure”, “high energy efficiency”, “use of renewable energy sources”, “use of ecological construction material” and “thermic comfort”[4]. Currently, the UNH 2.0 building has the highest certification in the category “klimaktiv gold” (996 points out of 1000) and is renovated to the passive house standards, while having the capacity to produce energy of 150 kWh with the roof photovoltaic system[5]. The gold certificate is given to 611 buildings (out of 1582 certified buildings) throughout the country. The pathway of certification and the criteria could be relevant for the PED concept to learn from and create synergies. On municipal level, a new funding program started in Austria in 2022 to support pioneer cities of the country. The “climate-neutral city” mission creates new opportunities for a resource-conserving, climate-neutral economy, and way of life. Linz, Salzburg, Dornbirn and Wiener Neustadt, Vienna, Graz, St. Pölten, Klagenfurt, Villach, and Innsbruck are the first awarded cities[6]. St. Pölten is the capital of the county of Lower Austria and is the urban counterpart for the selected pilot case in Schönbühel-Aggsbach.

As described in the white paper (JPI Urban Europe, 2020a) the framework that creates the foundation of a PED project is an open demarcation and concentrates on energy functions and sustainability goals. A universal outline of PED suitable for all cities and climates is hindered by numerous factors, such as national and local regulations, resources, energy systems, and planning culture. To standardize and create a certification system and standards for PEDs, an analysis of existing, national certification systems should be evaluated (JPI Urban Europe, 2020a). Two themes are particularly important: if there already is a national certification, and if not, are there certifications at building or district level that could serve as groundwork for a national certification, and identify missing components such as mobility, grey energy (JPI Urban Europe, 2020a). The necessary legal and strategic frameworks for the realization of PEDs are not in place in many cities (Haase and Baer, 2020). There are different Austrian PED projects in planning or development, but yet 3 projects in Vienna, Graz and Salzburg registered on the database of the PED-EDU-NET platform.[7]

 1.2. County Context

The administration units receive in Austria support from the county to achieve their climate goals, respectively the energy transition goals. The certifications started in some countries like Switzerland, Austria, and co. in the late 1990s but were unified to the European Energy Award, with the headquarters in Brussels. The European Energy Award, or EEA for short, is a European quality certificate for the sustainability of municipalities’ energy and climate protection policies. The Austrian national program is called “e5 municipalities” where the county facilitation organizations support the municipalities to define the environmental measures and goals, which will be then evaluated. This service is provided in the county of Lower Austria by “Energie- und Umweltagentur des Landes NÖ” (eNu). The county is divided into different districts, with various municipalities (villages and towns). The EEA gold certificate was given to the town Baden[8] in Lower Austria, which has a hot spring and is very active in providing mobility options (last mile), and district heating and invites citizens to proactively work on the goals for the Paris agreement.

On a municipal level, the Austrian counties are supporting the municipalities (especially the rural and smaller ones with the e5-Program. The program foresees a basic baseline study in the beginning and documentation of the implemented measures. Out of the Catalogue of e5 measures, the municipalities can develop various measures and gain points. Through a continuous evaluation system (planning, implementation, control) and external evaluation, the municipality will be certified to gain an “e” to “eeeee” certificate and gain the European Energy Award. The “e” symbolizes the achieved goals. 25% achieved goals corresponding with one “e”, whereas else 75% achieved goals equal to five “e”’s. The coaching and support are done by PED-ACT’s associated Partner die Energieagentur[9], which is responsible for the entire county. Per January 2023, there are 64 municipalities registered as e-plus-municipalities in Lower Austria and only 3 are certified with 5e’s. The program has been running since 2011 in Lower Austria. More info on:

For the municipality, the connection and collaboration possibilities are given in the district of Melk with other villages and towns, in the county of Lower Austria with other districts and municipalities, as well as on the national level with areas in other counties. Within the district Melk only Krumnussbaum (e2 municipality since 2015) and Mank (e4 since 2016) have the e5 certification[10] and might be good partners for future collaboration. Melk, Loosdorf and Schönbühel Aggsbach are not listed.

Find out where Aggsbach-Schönbüchel is standing with this program. Alternatively look at Melk and other municipalities in Melk, to understand the local context.


1.3. Cultural Context

The well-known valley Wachau in Lower Austria is a picturesque landscape formed by the Danube River, stretching in the region between the towns of Melk and Krems. Schönbüchel-Aggbach is the neighboring village to the town Melk in the east and Loosdorf in the south. The famous tourist destination is known for high-quality wines, was settled in prehistoric times, and offers monasteries, castles, ruins, architectural sightseeing in towns and villages, and winery landscapes. The Wachau is inscribed as “Wachau Cultural Landscape” in the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites, for the region’s architectural and agricultural values.[11] The recognized cultural heritage Wachau clearly gives the local community and businesses a recognisable cultural identity. The conservation and sustainable development of the historic properties in the region is manged by Bundesdenkmalamt (Federal Office of Historic Monuments) and the protected areas, like nature conservation areas, natural reserves, natural monuments, landscape protection area are handled by the Amt der niederösterreichischen Landesregierung (Office of the Lower Austrian Provincial Government). The provincial government is also in charge of general development outlines, such as settlement development limits, and supports the local authorities in implementing local and regional strategies through expertise and public funding. The region of Wachau is managed by 13 communities (Gemeinden). They oversee local development plans, zoning, and building regulations. An association called “Arbeitskreis Wachau” (Working Group for the Wachau) is creating local development agendas and activities for the region, they develop projects connected to the conservation and sustainable development of the Cultural Landscape. The cultural context and the location (a village stretching at the banks of the Danube) make the village an important tourist destination, especially for bike tourists.

The management is financed by European programs and by the province of Lower Austria. It is based on a mission and several strategic and operative plans and programs, mainly focusing on nature protection, wine and fruit growing, tourism, culture, regional development, the regional Nature Park, energy efficiency, education, and communication. When finalized and agreed upon, a comprehensive Management Plan will be an essential tool to deal with regional voluntary activities and encompass all aspects of the management of the property that are dealt with by institutions at federal, provincial, and local levels.

2. Energy Communities in Austria

An Austrian “renewable energy community” (Erneuerbare Energie Gemeinschaft) may generate, store, consume, and sell electricity, heat, or renewable gas from renewable sources. Members or shareholders of EEGs can be private individuals or municipalities, local authorities, or SMEs. However, they must be located in the “vicinity” of the energy generation plant and share the same transformer substation. The community then will save on the infrastructure costs (fixed costs share of the energy supply). The community must not work primarily for profit, but should be oriented towards ecological, economic, and social community goals.


According to current energy communities’ law, the energy communities have the possibility to either create a local or regional energy community. The E.C. needs the network operator’s facilities (such as the electricity grid), but they must always be located within the concession area of ​​the individual network operator. Local energy communities share the same local electricity infrastructure net (Niederspannungs-Verteilernetz) and the households of Schönbühel-Aggsbach are served with the same energy network as the bordering municipalities Melk and Loosdorf. According to the County’s law, the exact supply area of the transformer substation and stations is not available to the public (nor the energy communities). In other Austrian counties, e.g. in Salzburg county, this information is available.  The regional energy communities have the possibility to use the region of the substation (Mittelspannungs-Sammelschiene im Umspannwerk des Netzbetreibers) and the energy community Schönbühel Aggsbach chose this option and can have members in multiple municipalities who share the same energy infrastructure. The regional energy community is also allowed to form a local energy community on the basis of the local trafo network (energy transformer station), but the exact borders for this network are also not available in Lower Austria.

Figure 1. Location of the municipality Schönbühel/Aggsbach in Austria, county Lower-Austria, and the district Melk

2.1. Bürger*innenKRAFT-werk

The energy community Bürger*innenKRAFT-werk (EEG) is a small but growing energy community founded in the small municipality (Marktgemeinde) of Schönbühel-Aggsbach situated in the UNESCO-protected Wachau region at the Southern-Danube-Bank. They are using the local energy supply network for energy sharing and can serve three legal municipalities: Schönbühel-Aggsbach, Melk, and Loosdorf. The Energy Community (E.C.) operates under the EEG category, allowing it to generate, store, consume, and sell energy (including electricity, heat, or renewable gas) sourced from renewable sources (Austria Energy Community Coordinator, 2023).

The Schönbühel-Aggsbach municipal area (28km2) is spread over two historic village parts and can have the maximum local population as members. The permanent settled area counts 6km2 (21% of the municipality). As of January 1, 2023, the population stands at 932 with a declining trend since 2001, 71 workplaces reported as of October 31, 2021, and a total of 232 employed individuals in the region (Statistics Austria, 2023). Neither the registered companies nor the one of the associations on the municipal homepage are updated. 17 percent is agricultural land, 72 percent of the area is forested, and seven percent is water. The EEG started also a local energy community, which can serve the households directly linked in the trafo area. The region of the e.g. is:  BürgerInnenkraft as a regional energy community can facilitate local energy communities as sub-associations. Currently, there is one sub-local-energy community with one producer and 3 consumers. From 2024 onwards, the residents will have the opportunity to join multiple energy communities as well.

The town of Melk is the administrative capital of the district (25km2) and bordering municipality in the southwest for the village Schönbühel-Aggsbach, with a population of 5.594. The permanent settled area counts 16km2 (63% of the municipality). The population has increased slightly in the last decades. For the public buildings, the municipality created its own energy community. The private households can share with the EEG Bürger*innen-KRAFT-werk the energy on the level of the transformer substation. The town has 62 registered associations, 67 companies, and 21 companies in the hospitality sector on its web portal.[12] VERBUND Hydro Power AG operates the Melk power plant on the Danube. For education, administration, and health services, the town serves both municipalities (Schönbühel-Aggsbach and Loosdorf) as the closest urban center. The municipality is trying to attract businesses (investments) with the project “WIR4 Region Melk”. The town is serving 40 municipalities within the district Melk and in total they count more than 78 thousand residents, and there are several energy communities in development. Ask about the energiegemeinschaft region melk. Also the public bath: also the urban one:


The municipality Loosdorf (Marktgemeinde) is in the south-west of the village (11km2) and shares the same energy infrastructure with the village Schönbühel-Aggsbach, with a population of 3.902. The permanent settled area counts 10km2 (84% of the municipality). The municipality is part of the district Melk, an administrative unit within the county of Lower Austria. Approximately 1.830 people are employed, and the municipality provides work to 2.305 individuals.[13]Especially the shopping center is attracting visitors and employees to the municipality. Climate Alliance (Klimabündnis): Loosdorf signed the declaration of accession to the Austrian Climate Alliance on June 17, 2006. By signing this declaration, the municipality undertakes to take the following steps to preserve the earth’s atmosphere:

  • the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (especially C02) by 50% by the year 2030
  • the renunciation of the use of tropical wood, CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs
  • supporting indigenous partners in the Amazon in their efforts to preserve their way of life and the rainforest

These ambitions might serve as a starting point for the Climate Contract.


3. Specifications of the village

The E.C. started its work within the village and in PED-ACT we will be analyzing the territory of one local trafo network in Schönbühel-Aggsbach. The village has currently (growing) 21.200MWH energy demand (housing and mobility each almost half of the demand) per year and only ¼ is covered with renewables. For the 2050 sustainability plans, they need to reduce the demand to half and use fully renewables. The region is a protected landscape, and windmills and water turbines are due to heritage regulations not an option. Due to the location solar energy seems to be the favourable one. The solar energy collection is widely possible on private roofs (with rather small surfaces). This form of renewable energy collection will have little contribution to the energy demand. The community needs to increase the cost-effectiveness of energy production and find eventually new ways to deal with heritage regulations and opt for thermal energy sources while initiating collaboration with other municipalities in the district and region. In the municipality several technologies to use renewable energy are employed, solar panels, small hydro plants, historic water mills, and home batteries.


The energy communities in Austria can act within the frameworks of the energy supply network and, therefore are limited, but within these borders, only one energy community is possible (EEG). The entity EEG Bürger*InnenKRAFTwerk allows further sub-energycommunities, to share within the transformer network. The Austrian Site is one such transformer network.  

Local authority involvement:

The municipality is informed, and interaction and collaboration with county and national actors are planned. The municipality Melk is forming its own energy community to serve the public buildings, but not the private households. Such an E.C. is not expected in Schönbühel-Aggsbach and Loosdorf to be formed by the municipalities.


Policy implication:

Currently the energy transition and the Austrian actions are divided in support and facilitation for the public entitties (e5 municipalities, Pioneer city,…) and private consumers. energy cEnhance and advance the energy community legacy with bottom-up PED development, financial instruments, funding instruments, regional collaboration possibilities (beyond the borders of the municipality).

 4. Potential PED area

The energy community is ambitious but has few resources while having promising dimensions. Technologically, the members of the association are in the beginning of the development of a local energy supply, that covers the local needs, while having commitment from the community to improve the local sustainability performance and at the same time the potential to collaborate with other energy communities to create a sustainable network in the region. The ambitions need external support, as the small municipality itself does not have the capacity to develop such a vision or project. The local case development relies on the exchanges with the energy community board and will create exchange moments with other actors in the region to explore networking and collaboration opportunities. Elaborated visions and scenarios will be shared and discussed with the local community, while local stakeholders will be invited to take a role in the potential scenarios.


Vision and goal:

The community wants to develop a just governance and business model, which allows local communities to cross-finance their environment and cultural projects while sharing sustainably locally produced energy at an affordable price.

“Visions and goals have an impact on the way we shape our lives. Shared together, they can make a valuable contribution to our regional development and the protection of the environment, nature, and species.”[14]

Martina Kuchler (Schriftführerin), Klaus Neundlinger (Schatzmeister) und Erich Lagler (Obmann)  


As an association, the activities cover irregular projects for the environment, nature, and species protection. Some members of the association support the seasonal toad migration, while others discover and activate local history.  The wide and ambitious vision and goals of the group are an important driver for realizing a future worth living. Since all activities are based on voluntary work, a bit of stability and funding for the basics would increase the continuity as well as the impact.


Wide vision

The ambitions for the future are defined by different aspects and would help to align the ambitions of the present accordingly. “The vision for the future includes a sustainable way of life that makes our grandchildren happy.” The created future of the village has to be suitable for the grandchildren. This requires meaningful development of living life and provides high diversity in the community. The members need to be active, shaping the community to enable well-being on the village level. The young generation needs to benefit from decisions and implementation (suitable for grandchildren). There are wishes to do many projects and activities, more community production, and regional products. The mobility and accessibility in the village are restricted due to the size and spatial distribution of the village. Seamless mobility is wished and required by the members.


4.1 data collection (workpackage 3)

The energy community provided 2 energy certificates (aligned with the Austrian Institute for Construction Technology (OIB). The certificate displays the energy performance in terms of heating energy demands and overall energy efficiency. The buildings have 2 floors and are listed as residential buildings. Furthermore, they were each built around 1900 and renovated in 1994. The U-value (thermal transmittance) of the according houses ranks at 0,37 W/m²K and 0,47 W/m²K. Even though the values are normal for such historic buildings, it is worth mentioning that these values are too high for newly built houses according to the Austrian ÖNORM. It has to be checked how the values will be rated in the context of renovated buildings.  

The Modelling and simulation started with the found information on the energy community and with the team of AIT the Trafo area around the first members of the sub-energy community was identified as the potential PED area. (T3.2, T3.3., T3.4, T3.5)

4.2 database implications (work package 4)

The Review of the existing Database does not show a comparable case of bottom-up development of a PED. The needs of the E.C. from a database and professional organizations are learning from other cases, moderation of the process (project partner to guide and feedback them), simulations, and holistic approach to the E.C. development and advocacy to create synergies with existing organizations and entities, as well as knowledge about possible supporting organizations (content, technical, organizational, and financial). Learning from experts is a strong element in the PED-ACT project and is very relevant for the energy community. Knowing what works in other places, especially in other contexts like Sweden and Türkiye can be fruitful or inspiring, depending on the context. Especially learning where things can go wrong and how to deal with mistakes and challenges will be important in the development of the energy community for future challenges and roles.


4.3 Matrix requirements (work package 5)

The requirements of the E.C. from the Matrix are regarding planning a PED from bottom up. They need the roadmap to PED to be developed under the perspective of social, economic, and ecological sustainability.


Main agenda and issues for the energy community are very diverse. Goals and visions combine philosophical, social, ecological, technological, and technical aspects. The members are looking positively into the future, which is possible through the resilience of the actors and satisfaction with the organization of the E.C. as a facilitator, the association structure, and cultural embedding in “public networks”. Informed decision-making is required by the members since local capacity is very low. Self-determined ability to act through tolerance and appreciation for “dissenters”. Better perceive and sound out opinions impartially through attitude, approach, and abstraction. Forward-looking communication & technological infrastructure so that new tools for local efficiency can be developed. Technology vs. technology must be considered in the wider context. Designing for the future also means thinking about decisions and solutions in different directions. Creating points of contact between philosophically oriented and technology-oriented participants through interdisciplinary collaborative action. By looking at the past, documenting the status quo and surveying future visions, the diversity of solutions should be promoted. Age equality is important, which is why the opinion of young people is to be obtained through targeted marketing to prevent an age problem. Those are aspects not tackled, mapped, or organised by regular PED projects, therefore the requirements from the matrix have to be significantly enhanced, to meet the needs of communities.


4.4 stakeholder work (work package 6)

The Board of the E.C. consists of three strong members, covering the topics of organisation/management, technic and social. The members of the association bring next to energy affiliation, social and environmental ambitious tasks/projects to complement the energy community’s work. As an established and operating community, there are links to energy supplier and organisations to get support.

The members wish support in publicity, for example in having public exhibitions, which make the association and the energy topic tangible and are accessible for all groups of the society. Potentially they would aim for producing a film or videos for the communication purposes. Additionally further meetings and workshops after certain milestones would help the community to advance, reflect and feedback. The members are very much interested in collaboration with the municipality(ies), especially in an exchange with the local, elected municipal council. The E.C. must involve the local social groups in the area (diverse Meinungsgesellschaft) and grow.


Interests of the community:

The members of the community are interested in meeting other people and learn how to develop projects and improve the environmental sustainability for their village and beyond. Some of the members are working and experimenting on new energy technologies (e.g. re-use of old car-batteries). They would like to know and hear about development opportunities, as well as international exchange and cooperation opportunities. Association members would like to participate in excursions to partners sites or demonstration objects. Their activities need to connect to the mission “How can I create a “beautiful” sustainable life”. As an immediate wish/requirement they would like to develop an organic store for the village, which has none at the moment.


4.5 replication opportunities (work package 7)

The wide spread of energy communities in Austria and the county of Lower Austria are giving plenty of replication opportunities. Especially the collaboration with e5 municipalities within the district and the county, as well as St. Pölten being a selected Pioneer city as capital of the county create a diversity of connection points.

5. Local Goals and Aims for a PED

Currently the info point in the village, the publication Earth’s local history volume 1, state of the art with small-scale wind turbines and their compatibility with the heritage protection laws and rules, energy storage, solar shading, less (visual) impactful wind power plants, … are on the agenda to be explored. There is more need for networking in the field of energy. An excursion to the wind turbines near “Buckliger Welt” could help to build up the vision for Bürger*InnenKRAFTwerk and inspire the members. There are untapped land resources, like the potential for solar power use in meadows or larger areas in agriculture. Depending on the biodiversity the panel’s shade could be a source of shade for sensitive plants. Local inventors developed buoys to use the Danube waters to produce energy. The energy community could develop potential synergies with inventors and learn from their experience how to deal with bureaucracy and regulations. The member and volunteers stock has to involve more young residents. The community needs to interact and engage more with the bicycle traffic and cater to their needs within their village boundaries. The bicycle itself can produce energy, this can be utilised for instance pop-up events and similar. The activities require resources, human resources but also funding. The pathways for community participation have to be developed and communicated, and for talent exchange, LETS could be used. For financial security, the projects have to have dedicated actors, to develop them to projects which can receive funding.

[1] 07. Juni 2021 EAG (Erneuerbaren Ausbaugesetz).








[9] Energie- und Umweltagentur des Landes NÖ 


[11] Entry on UNESCO site