Nikolaus Berlakovich: Economic upturn in Austria thanks to renewable energy

The nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima made it clear that it is time for a change in European and global energy policies. This catastrophe will affect man and the environment for decades, if not for centuries. Nuclear power, as well as oil and gas, is outdated, and using alternatives is the only logical next step. The future of the energy sector needs to consist of sustained, efficient and renewable energy. My vision for our country is one of an energy self-sufficient Austria, with 100 per cent of our energy “Made in Austri

Energy consumption is increasing tremen­dously around the world. Con­sider­able price increases are expected for oil, while resources are becoming scarcer. OPEC and the German Institute for Eco­nomic Research (DIW) forecast a price increase for oil of 200 dollars per barrel over the coming years. This repre­sents additional costs for an average family of 3,360 euros annually for their home and car. My goal is clear: Austria is to become independent of oil and gas imports. This is possible. We can supply Austria with 100 per cent clean domestic energy by the year 2050. The environment and economy in Austria will benefit from this. Three main points have been established to achieve this goal: energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs.

We need to change our energy system and become independent. We need an energy system that represents the future and not the past. All responsible parties and every individual must do their part. Particularly our districts and regions are the driving forces in this. For this reason, I have launched a funding programme as part of the climate and energy fund, which is to support Austrian districts and regions on their way to achieving energy self-sufficiency. Already 66 districts have been granted funding, which means that nearly one-fifth of all Austrians are on their way to energy self-sufficiency and additional districts are currently joining the effort.


Blue-Chip-Energy(1)-Kopie erlauf_005-Kopie Photovoltaikanlagen(1)-Kopie Photvoltaikanlagen-Kopie

Green jobs as a driving force for the economy. No other sector made it through the economic crisis as well as the environmental sector has. Growth of 3.7 per cent in green jobs in the environmental industry brings the total number of jobs in this sector to 200,000. We have been able to significantly push this development over the past years by way of targeted support measures. Every investment in green jobs results in increased climate protection, secure energy supply, economic growth and economic upturn. Particularly strong growth can be seen in the renewable energies sector and energy conservation. Nearly 40 per cent of all employees generate 50 per cent of the total turnover in the environ­mental sector. As part of this, our support programme for thermal redevelop­ment has proven highly successful as has the extensive energy consulting and planning. The 400-million-euro redevelopment campaign is to result in an estimated reduction in greenhouse gases by four million tonnes and the creation of 10,500 green jobs annually by the year 2014. This shows: every euro invested in the environmental industry creates benefits for the people, climate protection and the economy.

Green jobs and economic growth are closely linked. One in every ten euros is earned through the environment in Austria. By 2020, 100,000 new green jobs can be created in this key sector. This is why we will continue to push and support expansion of this job sector. It is important that we provide the people in Austria with a sense of confidence. And I want to motivate young people especially to choose this option and to become active in the environmental sector.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management has already reported considerable success. I have initiated targeted measures with the master green jobs plan, the support campaign for thermal redevelopment and the promotion of the domestic environment, as well as the programmes in the climate and energy fund, the climate protection initiative klima:aktiv, the green jobs qualification campaign and the targeted promotion activities for the use of renewable energies. Along with the jobs created through the redevelopment campaign, we have created and secured nearly 2,700 green jobs with the klima: aktiv mobility projects and 7,300 green jobs with environmental promotion (UFIThe climate and energy pilot regions as well as the electro-mobility regions are also contributing to the creation and security of regional added value and jobs.


Blue-Chip-Energy(1)-Kopie

In order to achieve energy self-sufficiency in the mobility sector, it is necessary to promote alternative drive concepts, biofuels and electromobility so that our country can become independent from imported commodities. With the climate protection initiative klima:aktiv mobil, we are promoting the switch to electric vehicles with various offers so that we can boost electro­mobility around the country. The “10-point action programme for electromobility”, which was launched together with the Austrian Federal Chamber of Commerce, has given us a clear goal: we want to have 250,000 electric vehicles on Austria’s streets by the year 2020 and reduce CO2 emissions by 430,000 tonnes. Electric vehicles will in future allow virtually emissions-free and pollutant-free mobility.


3_Quelle_AEE-INTEC-Solaranlage-Kopie

This is a milestone in climate-friendly drive technology and a major gain for the environment and health of our citizens. We are also working on making a sufficient number of battery charging stations available. Austria has a sufficient supply of electri­city generated by renewable resources. The pilot regions for electromobility play a very important role as disseminators of this. Electro­mobility is already being successfully tested in Eisenstadt, Graz, Linz, Vienna and Vorarlberg. For example, leasing models, e-car sharing and e-call taxis are already in use.

Only one per cent in additional electricity production is required to power 250,000 electric vehicles. This means that an expansion of the existing power plant capacity is not required, because the power requirement can be provided entirely through renew­able energies from Austria – wind power, hydropower, solar power or biomass. Realistic planning for expanding the charging station network assumes that there will be nearly 4,000 public charging stations by the year 2020, which will require an investment volume of 150 million euros. This is offset by positive net effects for the economy as well as for the investments in the amount of 300 million euros. Electromobility proves that active climate protection will be an essential factor in the future for the economy and labour market policies.

For a higher quality of life in Austria. In order to have a sustained and affordable energy system for Austria and its citizens, we must switch over to renewable energy and energy efficiency as quickly as possible. However, this requires the dedication of all responsible parties. There is simply no other option. Modern environmental technologies and efficiency technologies make many things possible today which were considered utopian until recently. A safe, clean and independent energy supply is one of the most important issues of our time. Expanding renewable energies and energy efficiency, combined with the many advantages for economic upturn, growth and new green jobs for Austria, ensure our and our children’s quality of life and provide important economic prospects for the future.

HBM-hellblau-rechts-hochMinister for Environ­ment (born 1961) is a farmer and politician in the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). He is a member of the Burgenland Croatian ethnic group. Berlakovich was a representative of the Burgen­land state parliament and a member of the commission for agriculture and the environment in the Burgenland state govern­ment. Berlakovich has been the Federal Minister for Agri­culture and Forestry, Environ­ment and Water Management since 2008.