Güssing or the alliance between economy and ecology
Développement Durable.com | Elsa Sidawy | 06.21.10
Güssing is first of all the story of a change. Twenty years ago, two thirds of the working population in this town of 4,300 inhabitants in Eastern Austria were unemployed. This situation was all the more difficult to handle that the cost of fossil fuels was high. But thanks to the EU’s financial support and mayor Peter Vadasz’s initiative, the creation of a European Centre for Renewable Energies in 1995 was the turning point of the Güssing energy policy.
The town chose to build mainly on its biomass: instead of letting its forests uncared for, the town cleans them up and sustainably exploits the wood that cannot be used by the industry. Wood chips are exploited by a power station thanks to a gasification process. Organic waste from maize, clover and grass are converted into biogas, and rape into biodiesel. Solar energy also has a part to play in this energy mix since water-heaters, photovoltaic and thermal panels are used as well.
As a result, CO2 emissions diminished by two thirds and the town is so independent in terms of energy that it produces more than it consumes, the surplus bringing in 20 million Euros per year. This change in terms of energy production created 1,500 new jobs and encouraged companies attracted by costs stability to settle. Icing on the cake: 300 to 400 tourists visit the town each week to discover this brazen success. For Reinhard Koch, director of the centre, named by Développement durable le journal (Sustainable development newspaper), the “change for renewable energies considerably improved the quality of life in Güssing. Today young people picture themselves in the future here.”
A France 2 report
Photo credit: Town of Güssing
Translated by Oona Bijasson