by Hans Kordik
Environmental protection is globally a growing market and increasingly contributes to creating new jobs. This has been recognized by the United States of America as the new administration under President Obama has put climate change next to health reform on top of their agenda. Besides the creation of green jobs and improving energy efficiency in buildings and transport, the wish has been expressed to become energy independent by promoting clean energy sources.
Americans are becoming more environmentally conscious, regulations are getting stricter and focused on preserving the environment, energy prices are increasing, and growth in population is demanding innovative solutions based on environmental and energy technologies.
Because of its long history in environmental policy and especially its valuable environmental technology industry, Austria has the potential of answering the growing demand in the USA for green technologies. Occurring at a time when new environmental technologies are being encouraged by the new U.S. Administration, Austria’s current emphasis on promoting export of environmental technologies to Eastern Europe is shifting to include the United States as well as China and the United Arab Emirates.
Based on the leading role that California takes in environmental protection, Austrian Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich and a delegation of environmental technology companies visited the Golden State on May 14, 2009 to demonstrate and promote green technologies “Made in Austria.” California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed interest in Austria’s experience in creating green jobs as a solution to the prevailing economic crisis, and Environmental Advisor Terry Tamminen was enthusiastic about Austria’s successful system of waste management.
Austria’s Success Story in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
For the Austrian Federal Government sustainable energy supply has always been a key policy. Reducing imports of fossil energy and at the same time promoting renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency are measures supporting this policy. The result of many years of Austria’s environmental commitment based on sustainable principles can best be illustrated by:
- High Share of Renewable Energy
Having a share of 23.4% of renewable energy, Austria is ranked 4th within the European Union. Austria makes use of its many natural resources, such as rivers for hydro power plants, forests for biomass heating, wind for wind energy and the sun for solar energy.
- Buildings of Tomorrow
The program “Buildings of Tomorrow” aims at constructing low-energy buildings by reducing energy and material consumption while promoting use of renewable energy sources. In terms of energy-efficient buildings, Austria has the highest per capita share of “green” buildings in the world.
-Leading Model for Energy Independence
Since 2001, Güssing, Austria, with more than 27,000 inhabitants, has been one of the largest energy independent areas in the world using 100% renewable energy. In 1988, Güssing was one of the poorest regions and was totally dependent on fossil fuel imports (electricity, oil and fuel). In 1990, a decision was made to stop using fossil energy and, at the same time, to produce heat, bio fuels and electricity by using its own resources. The share of 42% forests was used for biomass heating and electricity, while a newly established biodiesel manufacturing plant produced the necessary bio fuels. Within 15 years Güssing has emerged as a region with a high quality of life and has created more than 1,000 new jobs.
Benchmarks set by the EU Climate and Energy Package of December 2008 require Austria to increase its share of renewable energy to 34% by 2020. The Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth, working with the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, are planning to present an “Energy Action Plan” by the end of the year which will implement measures that will help to reach this goal. Based on the positive experience of Güssing, Austrian Federal Minister for Agriculture and Environment Nikolaus Berlakovich has announced that Austria will eventually become energy independent using solely renewable energy.
The Growing Industry of Environmental Technologies
Over the last fifteen years, environmental technologies have shown a dynamic development in Austria and have emerged as a major branch of industry. The number of companies working in this sector has increased from 248 to 375 and, based on a percentage of GDP compared Europe-wide, Austria ranks second in environmental investment. Employment in the environmental technology sector has doubled over the last fifteen years, creating over 22,000 jobs.
Since 2003, the average annual growth in turnover amounted to 12.3%. Clean energy technologies account for almost half of the sales in Austria. A few examples of successful Austrian green technologies include:
- The Carinthia-based GREENoneTEC specializes in the production of top-quality solar collectors. With annual production figures exceeding 430,000 square meters of collector surface, the manufacturer ranks first in the global market.
- The compact turbine concept called “Hydromatrix” has helped VA TECH HYDRO to fill a gap in the market. Innovation has made it possible to harness hydropower energy potentials that were previously believed to be unprofitable.
- Since the mid-1980s, the Tyrol-based ELIN-EBG Motoren GmbH (EMG) has been producing generators for wind power facilities.
- Magna Steyr in Graz, Styria just recently showcased the “MILA Concept,” a sporty single-seater car powered by monovalent natural gas.
The Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, together with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), is organizing the “envietech2010” in February, 2010. This two-day conference will focus on the newest developments and system solutions of environmental technologies and renewable energies. More information can be found at: www.envietech.at
Promoting Exports of Environmental Technologies “Made in Austria”
The Austrian environmental and energy technology industry is not only making a considerable contribution to generating sustainable growth and ameliorating Austria’s environment, but growing exports show that its green technologies are also treasured beyond Austrian borders. In fact, sales in the environmental technology sector have quadrupled since 1993. Last year, Austrian companies sold more than 8 billion USD worth of environmental technologies. More than 63% of the sales are exported.
The Austrian Chamber of Commerce and the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management have worked together to promote the export of Austrian environmental technologies to new markets. This initiative helps Austrian companies establish themselves in the emerging markets and since its inception in the spring of 2005, more than 130 Austrian environmental technologies companies have participated in export activities.
California and Austria – Environmental Partners
A “Memorandum of Understanding” signed by the State of California and the Austrian Ministry of Environment on May 2008 provides the basis for cooperation in the field of environment. Recognizing the future potential of the U.S. market and given the leading role of the State of California in environmental protection, representatives from Austria’s environmental technology sectors accompanied Federal Minister Berlakovich in May for the purpose of initiating new business ventures. Participating companies included Komptech, specializing in mechanical processing of solid waste and biomass, BDI Biodiesel Int., GE Jenbacher and Elektro Güssing, all hoping that their experience in solar energy, biogas, biomass and technologies burning waste to produce bio energy will open doors to this new market.
One Austrian environmental technology project in California which met with great success was the first “Hybrid Motorboat,” manufactured by Frauscher and used for fisheries and in areas designated as under natural protection.
For further questions concerning the content of this article, please contact:
Counselor for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs
3524 International Court, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008-3027
Tel. 202 895 67 07, Fax 202 895 67 50
For specific questions on environmental technologies in the U.S., please contact:
Chicago Austrian Trade Commissioner
Austrian Trade Commission Chicago
500 North Michigan Ave., Suite 1950
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3722
Tel 312 644 5556, Fax 312 644 6526
Environmental Awareness Has a Long History in Austria
Environmental policy in Austria has undergone a great change ever since the beginning of the “green evolution” in the 1970s. The Ministry of Environment was established in 1972 and is considered to be one of the first ministries in Europe to deal with environmental issues. Initially the idea was to combat local environmental problems like water pollution, air pollution or waste.
In the late 1980s the Sustainable Development concept, a comprehensive and global approach to environmental issues, was postulated. Even though the Sustainable Development concept was mentioned for the first time in 1987 in the Brundtland Report (named after the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland), the integration of economic, environmental and social processes, or sustainable development, has a long history in Austria. In fact, more than 200 years ago, the principle of sustainable development was introduced to Austrian forestry to include forests in the taxation system. The forest scientist Georg Ludwig Hartig had defined the sustainable use of forests by advising that the present generation should use as much wood as possible, but leave future generations with at least as much wood. This means that for every tree logged, another tree should be planted. Today, the Austrian countryside is covered by 47.2 % forests, and in the last fifty years the average annual increase in forest acreage exceeded 12,000 acres. This extensive forest cover provides the basis for Austria’s high quality of air and water.