First Austrian Climate and Energy Model Region joins the Covenant of Mayors

CEMR Managers at one of their two annual  meetings (November 2013)
Published by Georg Priesner on 29/05/2014

At the beginning of this year, the 13 municipalities of the Climate and Energy Model Region Waldviertler Kernland joined the Covenant of Mayors. In taking this step, they promised to save at least 20% of their total energy consumption and to develop a joint Sustainable Energy Action Plan.

From CEMR to CoM – a story of success

In 2010, the Lower Austrian region “Waldviertler Kernland” was declared a Climate and Energy Model Region (CEMR). It comprises 13 rural municipalities with a total of approx. 13.500 inhabitants and is managed within the framework of the Austrian Climate and Energy Model Regions’ programme. This programme is funded nationally by the Climate and Energy Fund and aims at promoting renewable energy production in the already mentioned rural CEMRs. Its long-term target is that every single CEMR will be entirely independent from fossil fuels between 2030 and 2050. This means that in the near future every CEMR should be able to meet its total energy demand through the production of renewable energy and the development of green mobility systems. Meanwhile, the CEMR “Waldviertler Kernland” has been chosen as the only Austrian participant in the European project „100% RES Communities in rural areas”.

Last year, the 13 municipalities of the CEMR of Waldviertler Kernland successively joined the Covenant of Mayors, one of the European Union’s initiatives against climate change. They took this step in order to accelerate project implementation and to further develop their energy strategy. „In committing ourselves to having saved 20% of our total energy consumption by 2020, we have taken a big step towards our long-term target of energy self-sufficiency in 2030. Currently, about 36% of our total energy demand can be met from renewable energy sources“, explains Dieter Holzer, elected chairman of “Waldviertler Kernland”.

The mayors and municipal council members of the CEMR “Waldviertler Kernland”

The mayors and municipal council members of the CEMR “Waldviertler Kernland”

„We hope that we can accelerate the further development of wind turbines, biomass local heating systems and photovoltaic plants with the help of the SEAP and the measures taken by the CoM. We also expect to invest in energy saving measures in public and residential buildings, as well as in energy efficient street lighting“, adds CEMR Manager Thomas Waldhans

Further advantages offered by the membership in the CoM:

  • knowledge transfer in the development of the GHG-emission-baseline and the SEAP by Climate Alliance Austria (Klimabündnis Österreich) and the Energy Agency of the Regions  (Energieagentur der Regionen)
  • successful projects of the CEMR „Waldviertler Kernland“ will also be visible at European level
  • mutual inspiration at European level for all CoM signatories
  • reporting on project progress and energy consumption monitoring due every 2 years to identify progress in the respective sectors and to adapt measures if needed  
  • all CEMR municipalities committed to curbing their GHG-emissions by at least 20%
  • achievement of synergy (energy accounting tools, implementation strategy, energy action group of the CEMR)
Mayors of CEMR “Waldviertler Kernland” at a workshop

Mayors of CEMR “Waldviertler Kernland” at a workshop

From regional to national level: the successful bottom-up approach of the CEMRs

The Austrian government’s ambitious plan to achieve nationwide renewable energy self-sufficiency by 2050 formed the basis for the development of the CEMR programme. It started in 2009, including 35 member regions. Since then, the number of model regions has been steadily growing, reaching a total number of 112 CEMRs in 2014. Currently, the 112 CEMRs comprise 1.186 municipalities and 2.7 m inhabitants. In order to reach their above mentioned long-term target, the CEMRs work in two complementary ways. On the one hand, they use local resources, enhance energy efficiency and promote energy saving measures. Thus, they aim for an overall increase in renewable energy production. On the other hand, their work builds on tailored management systems, professional training, controlling, reporting and energy consumption monitoring.

CEMR: Pillars of success

CEMRs can be successfully implemented by taking the following three measures:

1) Development of an implementation strategy/energy strategy:

This includes determining the status-quo of energy consumption and setting short-term as well as long-term targets. Moreover, measures to be taken and potential for further development are defined. The size of each CEMR is key – a maximum number of 60,000 inhabitants has proven to be appropriate.

2) The driving force behind the CEMR: the CEMR Managers

The work of the CEMR Managers is key to the whole region’s success. They facilitate cooperation between all stakeholders and enforce the implementation of the energy strategy.

3) Participation of all regional stakeholders in the development process:

All stakeholders – regional entrepreneurs, politicians, residents – have a part in the development of the CEMRs. This goes hand in hand with raising public awareness of the importance of renewable energy. Cooperation between the municipalities is key, too, as they cofinance the CEMRs.

The three steps of the Climate and Energy Model Regions funding programme

  • Step 1: Development of an implementation strategy/energy strategy: based on a few prerequisites, involving key stakeholders
  • Step 2: CEMR Manager: is trained to gain know-how and supported financially during a period of 2 years; he/she enforces project implementation and raises public awareness
  • Step 3: The Climate and Energy Fund provides exclusive funds for CEMR projects to promote renewables and energy efficiency

Additional measures

CEMR Managers at one of their two annual  meetings (November 2013)

CEMR Managers at one of their two annual meetings (November 2013)

Networking and training: All CEMR Managers meet twice a year to discuss and exchange their know-how during a two-days’-workshop. They take part in special trainings, as well as in networking activities.

Energy consumption monitoring: Every CEMR is obliged to monitor its energy consumption and production. By doing so, the CEMRs manage to raise problem awareness and to make their successful projects more visible.

„In funding the CEMRs, we have chosen a bottom-up approach, as the regions themselves decide on how they are going to tackle their energy consumption and to increase the use of renewables. Through this approach the local residents are directly involved in the process of decision-making and can identify better with the whole project. Another advantage is that the CEMRs’ strengths are brought into sharp focus. Important side-effects are that the regional added value is increased, new jobs are created and life in rural areas becomes more attractive“, explains Ingmar Höbarth, General Manager of the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund.