Austria plans 1.7 billion euro package to cushion energy price rises

Presentation of plans to introduce mandatory coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations for all in Vienna
Austria's chancellor Karl Nehammer attends the presentation of plans to introduce mandatory coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations for all in Vienna, Austria, January 16, 2022. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

VIENNA, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Austria is introducing a 1.7 billion euro ($1.9 billion) package of measures to help households deal with rising energy costs, Chancellor Karl Nehammer said on Friday.

The measures include the doubling of a planned 150 euro one-off payment for the unemployed to 300 euros and the introduction of a one-off payment of 150 euros to households paying up to the maximum level of compulsory social security contributions, Nehammer told a news conference.

"These are many individual steps that will be taken. The decisive issue is that these 1.7 billion (euros) are transferred to people quickly and they are, from our point of view, a first step. We are following developments very closely," he said.

Energy prices have been surging across Europe, including in Austria, even though more than 60% of the country's power generation is hydro-electric and only 14% is from natural gas, according to national electricity and gas regulator E-Control.

The country does, however, obtain about 80% of its natural gas from Russia.

Europe relies heavily on Russian gas, supplies of which have been lower than usual this winter. Fears that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine, which could disrupt supply, have also helped to drive up prices.

($1 = 0.8981 euros)

Reporting by Francois Murphy Editing by David Goodman

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