Austria aims for energy savings in buildings

Pioneering finance system mooted, fund established to help smaller communities

Austria has set up a fund to enable local authorities take part in a new financing system for energy conservation in buildings. Under the so-called "contracting system," a contractor carries out energy conservation work free-of-charge and is paid subsequently out of savings made from lower energy use.

The system is already in use in Germany, where energy conservation measures have been undertaken in 15,000 mainly industrial buildings using the idea. However, this is the first time it has been applied in Austria

In an announcement made last week, the Austrian environment ministry said that it was creating an AS5m (Ecu0.36m) fund supported by a national financial institute to help support the use of the contracting system in local communities. It is also to encourage the system for Austrian public buildings, and announced that its own buildings would be a pilot scheme for wider use in the future.

According to an industry estimate, energy conservation measures in Austrian buildings could save one fifth of their energy costs, equivalent to savings of AS16bn. Insulation, energy efficient lighting and other measures were included in the study, which concluded that carbon dioxide emissions could be cut by 1.3 to 3.3m tonnes, or up to 5.5% of national emissions.

Peter Hennicke of the Wuppertal Institute, an expert in buildings energy conservation, told ENDS Daily that the Austrian use of the contracting system in public domestic buildings was a new departure In Germany, he said, it has been mainly applied in industry, and its use has taken off largely due to industrial renovation in eastern states.

However, he added that industry sometimes viewed the contracting system with suspicion. He said: "Some people don't believe more energy savings are possible in their workplace" and do not welcome what they see as criticism.

A spokesperson for the Austrian environment ministry told ENDS Daily that the government was keen to see the contracting system catch on. "It's a method that could be adapted to suit anybody" he said.

Follow Up:
Austrian environment ministry, tel: +43 1 515 22; Wuppertal Institute for Climate, the Environment and Energy, tel: +49 202 249 20.

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