Güssing is a small town in Austria, near the Hungarian border. Although the town of 3,660 (2016) was once struggling to pay for energy costs, it has become a global trendsetter in the production renewable energies. Güssing is credited as being one of the world’s first regions to implement renewable energy plans as part of an overall regional economic development and re-development plan. Using forward thinking public policy and innovative technology to address social and economic changes being experienced in the city near the turn of the century. Today Güssing’s entire energy chain is locally produced.
Beginning with a energy efficiency program in 1990, the town set forth plans to keep jobs and money in the area by taking ownership of their energy usage and production. The municipality was the center of the ambitious plan, switching all the streetlights to LED and retrofitting all the public buildings with new windows and insulation over a decade before the steps were made into EU law. The town also decided to stop using power produced by fossil fuels, an ambitious plan for the time. After seeing the benefits of the new energy plan, any residents that were uncertain understood this was the future of the city, as described by former Güssing mayor, Peter Vadasz, “If 50 percent living on a street wanted to join, we would lay the pipes in the remaining homes too, in case they wanted to join later — and they eventually did,” recalled Vadasz, “Green energy had a competitive market price and our best publicity was word-of-mouth, neighbours telling other neighbours that they weren’t paying more.”
Güssing’s agricultural and forestry traditions played an important role in the transformation, providing the organic material for community operated biomass district heating grids and in 2001, began producing electricity and biogas in the world’s first functioning FICFB (Fast Internally Circulating Fluidized Bed) plant. These early plans led Güssing to receive international recognition for using renewable energy to become “grid independent”.
Güssing’s success has let the way for the entire region of Burgenland (pop: 27,000) to follow as energy prosumers. In 2013, the entire region produced enough locally produced electricity to cover demand. Güssing itself has become a tourist attraction for the renewable energy field, experiencing several hundred ecotourist a year. There have also been a substantial amount business begun in the region, resulting in an increase of local employment, as highlighted by an article in Clean Technica, “The town now has 60 new companies, 1,500 new jobs, and annual revenues of $17 million due to energy sales.” Güssing’s successes also attracted R&D to the area as the European Center for Renewable Energy was founded in 1996 and remains central to Güssings renewable energy industry.
Image by Flickr, Andreas L.