Austrian firms seeking state aid on energy must ditch patio heaters

Austrian Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler attends a news conference in Vienna, Austria, August 31, 2022. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

VIENNA, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Austrian companies claiming state aid to cover energy costs will have to avoid certain wasteful activities like keeping shop lights on past 10 p.m., using patio heaters or letting ski lifts heat passengers' backsides, the government said on Wednesday.

The coalition government of conservatives and Greens outlined the new aid package on Wednesday, for which 1.3 billion euros ($1.2 billion) have been earmarked to cover up to 30% of fuel, gas or power costs, back-dated from Feb. 1 of this year until Sept. 30.

There are various categories of eligible companies and aid levels. Firms in certain energy-intensive sectors including steelmaking can receive up to 50 million euros.

That help comes with conditions, however, including committing to take certain energy-saving measures by March 31 of next year such as not keeping lights on inside or outside shops between closing time, or 10 p.m., and 6 a.m.. Hardly any shops in the country are open past 10 p.m..

While cafes and restaurants have only recently been given sweeping permission to keep terraces open all year round because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those claiming aid will not be able to use outdoor space heaters known in Austria as "heating mushrooms" that are popular in winter, the government said.

And in a blow to fair-weather sportspeople in a country that is a hotspot of winter tourism, chair lifts with heated padding will no longer be able to warm skiers' undercarriage, it added.

"Very many companies have already announced themselves that they will do exactly that - they will take energy saving into account this winter," the minister for energy and the environment, Leonore Gewessler, told a news conference, adding there would be spot checks to ensure compliance.

($1 = 1.0466 euros)

Reporting by Francois Murphy Editing by Mark Potter

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