Slovene delegation experienced many good practices Austrian Styria has to offer
Climate Alliance Austria organized a two and a half days long study tour for a Slovenian group composed of representatives of municipalities, Local energy agency, energy companies, all invited by Slovenski E-forum. We were very pleased that also a member of Slovenian parliament Franc Trček joined us. The tour took place in the southeastern part of Austrian Styria from 9th to 11th of March 2015.
The Slovenian delegation started the visit in Mureck on Monday afternoon. Participants were warmly welcomed by Georg Carl Priesner, project manager from the Vienna office of Klimabündnis/Climate Alliance Austria and his team. In the evening we participated in the workshop „Learning from one another“. Keynote speech was done by Waltraud Sudy, Mayor of the municipality of Mureck. We continued with a short presentation of two Slovenian SEAPs done by our project assistant Gašper Kleč and with the presentation of Climate Alliance Austria (Klimabündnis Österreich), made by Georg Priesner. Karl Totter gave us a brief historical overview of Mureck Energy Park and key points of how Mureck achieved energy self-sufficiency with renewable energy sources. Later Georg Priesner presented the Austrian initiative Climate and Energy Model Regions („Klima- und Energiemodellregionen“) with the national goal of Austria to become energy self-sufficient by 2050. Christian Luttenberger, Model Region’s manager then presented one of these regions called „Green Belt“.
Next day we started the bus journey around Styria with Energy park Mureck („Energiepark Mureck“) where Mr. Totter explained us about biodiesel plant, biomass district heating system, biogas plant, climate-friendly glasshouse and solar PV installations placed on the roof of glasshouse. Participants were interested in electricity and heat production, financial schemes and ownership of buildings and land. The heat produced from local biomass supplies all the town of Mureck. It was interesting to hear that only 20% of heat is produced from corn, so fear of using food for energy purposes is mainly unfounded.
Next stop was Climate-friendly Garden Gosdorf („Klimaschutzgarten Gosdorf“), a social business supporting long-term unemployed people, certified by Climate Alliance Austria. We were welcomed by Irmtraud Pribas. We saw different handmade products and a beautiful garden, “designed” with the help of ideas of local villagers and where more than 200 species of roses are grown. Time for lunch was spent sitting on the bank of river Mura, beside the floating mill.
Afterward we visited the municipality of Gabersdorf, a member of the e5-network. Presentation took place in a wooden gym of local primary school and was done by Mayor Franz Hierzer. He told us about the Austrian e5-network and which activities they accomplished to get their 3rd »e«. Family friendly approach amazed us – offering full-days childcare and schools and their kindergarten where they take care of disabled children. Financing energy projects is included into municipality budget and also two big companies are being asked for financial help if needed. Later we visited also a 5ha large cluster of solar PV installations where an example of a citizen participation model was explained. Day ended with wine testing in a local winery.
We started the second day with the visit of the Energie-Innovations-Zentrum W.E.I.Z. I. Barbara Kulmer presented their center, research activities, citizen involvement and different projects. Weiz has a very low unemployment rate (just 3,5 %) because many companies are located in the city. Weiz is also the first Styria municipality that got all 5 “e” as a part of e5-network. Energy Model Region Weiz-Gleisdorf was presented by Iris Absenger-Helmli, Manager from the LEADER-Region Almenland and Energieregion Weiz-Gleisdorf. At the end, the Mayor of Weiz Erwin Eggenreich warmly welcomed the Slovenian delegation and a short discussion followed.
Later we visited Elementary School Weiz that is a part of EU-project Euronet 50/50 Max – saving energy in schools and public buildings. We saw an innovative playground, made out of wood and with different physical, mathematical and scientific tasks for children. Pupils presented us a class project in the field of energy saving. Afterward we saw the Gemini House, the only house with PV installations that moves around and orientates according to the position of the sun. Next stop was energy self-sufficient sewage system of Weiz that uses waste gases to generate electricity and also PV installations. We made a tour around the complex and then slowly head towards town of Gleisdorf.
After a tasty lunch and a welcoming by Christoph Stark, Mayor of Gleisdorf, we drove to the Energy Park of Freistritzwerke, certified enterprise and member of Climate Alliance Austria. Josef Schröttner presented biomass district heating system (including solar PV and solar thermal installations), storage for wood chips and electric vehicles. Our participants had many questions, so we discussed differences and similarities between Austria and Slovenia. We saw impressive stories and also made new friendships that will definitely help us to make changes on local, regional and national level. We also hope that our municipalities will follow good Austrian practices and head towards becoming 100% RE communities.