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Sustainability report 19/20

Sustainability approach

Sustainability lies at the heart of RAG’s energy operations. And it is the guiding principle for our initiatives aimed at shaping the future energy landscape, a landscape that will be climate-friendly, technologically open and networked. Achieving this transformation will call for major efforts from all stakeholders, from businesses and politicians, as well as consumers.

Protecting the climate is a core focus of a sustainable energy system. As dependence on energy continues to rise, this is posing significant challenges for politicians and the energy industry. We require clean, affordable energy for power, heat, industry and transportation, but at the same time we need maximum security of supply coupled with flexible energy provision. This is the indispensable foundation for the development of a sustainable energy system in Europe. 

RAG has been implementing sustainable, innovative energy projects for decades. Playing our part in developing practical energy solutions for future generations is both exciting and highly satisfying.
Stefan Pestl | Head of Corporate Communications


RAG Austria AG’s sustainability targets

Embedding sustainability in RAG’s strategy

We believe that a sustainable approach – what we at RAG call “sustainable energy mining” – is firmly anchored in our current core business: seasonal, high-volume gas storage. Decades ago, underground gas reservoirs developed using our high-tech expertise were converted for sustainable use as seasonal gas storage facilities that provide supplies of clean and affordable energy. Today, thanks to our focus on energy centres of the future, these reservoirs are on the verge of being put to use as underground storage facilities for renewable energy in the form of hydrogen (Underground Sun Storage) and as green gas production facilities (Underground Sun Conversion).  This is why it was particularly important to integrate our sustainability targets – which relate to both current and future products as well as the climate-neutral operation of our plants – into our strategy in 2020, and to focus on gradually achieving a series of milestones over the period to 2040.

Energy storage and security of supply

Renewable energy needs to be storable if it is to account for a larger proportion of the energy mix. This is because volatility is the main problem associated with renewables. Industry and households still need electricity when the sun stops shining or the wind stops blowing. The necessary reduction of emissions in the future energy system can only be achieved if part of the energy collected in summer can be stored for the winter, which in turn will safeguard supply security.

RAG’s long-term strategy is focused on combining conventional gas storage with renewables and implementing needs-based structures on an industrial scale, with a view to promoting achievement of Europe’s climate goals by supplying carbon-neutral energy over the long term.

To do this, we aim to make use of existing gas infrastructure, comprising storage, pipelines and wells – this will form the basis of a climate-friendly and affordable renewable energy system in the future. Increased use of solar and wind power, their conversion using electrolysis and subsequent storage in the form of hydrogen will also require further spending on technology development and significant investment in storage technologies in the coming years. This will involve expanding hydrogen production in Austria and Europe, as well as the development of high-capacity hydrogen storage facilities.

Capacity for innovation

RAG has been working on cutting-edge solutions designed to reduce emissions in the entire energy system and make renewable energy storable since 2013. Through our Underground Sun Storage and Underground Sun Conversion projects, along with the follow-up initiatives USC-FlexStore and USS 2030, and in our role as a sustainable technology leader, we are working towards the seasonal, carbon-neutral underground storage of large volumes of green gas (biogas and hydrogen). Produced from renewable sources such as solar and wind, it will be available for withdrawal when needed – in the form of gas for use in power and heat generation, in industry and transportation and as a raw material. We are committed to protecting security of supply – both now and in the future.

Sustainable energy mining

Sustainability is an integral part of our strategy. The cornerstone of this approach is the sustainable use of former production sites, a concept that we refer to as “sustainable energy mining” at RAG’s energy centres. The aim is to put existing production infrastructure, reservoirs, above-ground facilities and pipeline systems to efficient use as environmentally friendly, regional energy centres. This also involves expanding them and making operations at these sites increasingly climate-neutral. Our strategy is centred on the sustainable after-use of natural reservoirs in porous geological strata, which are called pore reservoirs. RAG’s sustainable energy mining concept will trigger innovation in Austrian industry, cut emissions, boost regional economic growth and reduce dependence on energy imports.

RAG – renewables AND gas

Gas is a great all-rounder and a vital component of the renewables-based energy system of the future. It is storable, clean, safe, affordable and completely reliable – and it can be green as well. At present, conventional natural gas is primarily used to ensure supplies of electricity and heat, and as a fuel for transportation, but in the future, green gas and clean hydrogen will also be used for these purposes. Therefore RAG is concentrating on combining the gas storage business with renewable energy forms – what we call “renewables and gas”. In the future, we will use natural gas as a raw material for producing hydrogen and high-value carbon, which can be used as a base material for batteries, insulation materials, tyres, construction materials and steel, or in agriculture as a soil conditioner.

Building on our resources, infrastructure and know-how, we are driving forward the development and roll-out of innovative, groundbreaking, carbon-neutral energy solutions based on green gas technologies.

  • Green gas and the development of sustainable, cutting-edge technologies, such as power-to-gas, which makes it possible to manufacture sustainable synthetic gas from wind and solar energy (as in our Underground Sun Conversion project)
  • Promoting decentralised, renewable, energy-efficient, demand-based energy production and supply systems that exploit all potential synergies, ranging from heat generation to natural gas vehicles (running on CNG and LNG/LBG)
  • Increasing gas storage and withdrawal capacity: high-volume, seasonal storage of conventional natural gas, hydrogen or biomethane aimed at bolstering security of supply in Austria and Europe, and supporting the expansion of renewable energy sources
  • Production of natural gas and its utilisation as a raw material for high-quality carbon and hydrogen, by means of methane pyrolysis

RAG’s internationally registered patents  are testament to its expertise in these areas. Each year, the company invests around EUR 5-6m in research and development (R&D).

Implementation of the strategy and the achievement of related targets are assessed at regular strategy meetings, and adjustments are made where necessary.