Guessing, Austria

Biomethane storage facility in Guessing. Credit: Gerfriedc.

Güssing in Austria reached renewable energy self-sufficiency in 2001. This was the final step in a planning and development process that took Güssing from a poor rural town to a role model for municipal renewable energy supply.

The beginning
Güssing is a district-capital of a region with approx. 27,000 inhabitants – a region with quite some deficits regarding its infrastructure. In 1988, Güssing was one of the poorest districts in Austria. Unfavorably located near the Hungarian border, at that time still a Communist country, Güssing had no significant industry or trade business. The district was neither connected to the railway network nor to the Austrian Autobahn (Freeway) system. Jobs were scarce, 70 % of the population had to commute to Vienna every week. A high rate of migration to other regions was the consequence. High energy costs (for oil, electricity, gas) meant a substantial capital outflow from the region, but existing resources like the 45 % of forest remained largely unused.

In 1990, experts developed a revolutionary model that asked for complete abandonment of fossil energy. Its objective was to supply the town of Güssing (and subsequently the whole district) with renewable energy, from locally available sources. It projected that it could provide new kinds of added value to the whole region. The model comprised heat generation, production of fuels, as well as electric power.

Energy Savings
The first steps toward implementation of the model consisted of targeted energy saving measures in Güssing. The result of energy optimization of all buildings in the town center alone brought a reduction of expenditure on energy by almost 50 %.

Biomass Plants
Consequently, the establishment of plants that researched and demonstrated demonstration the production of energy in town and region further helped to promote the implementation of the model, step by step. One of the first applications was the successful installation of a plant producing bio-diesel from rape oil. Two small-scale biomass district heating systems were built to heat parts of Güssing. Finally, a district heating system based on wood as fuel was constructed to supply the whole town of Güssing.
The goal of energy self-sufficiency was finally realized in 2001, when the biomass power plant Güssing (BiomasseKraftwerkGüssing) was opened. It relies on a newly developed biomass-steam gasification technology and has been a success story from its very start. The town of Güssing now annually produces more energy (heat, fuels, and electric power) from renewable resources than actually can be consumed in the town. The benefit to the whole region is an added economic value of 13 million Euro (2005 figures) per year.

Federal Support
Güssing took part in the “Sustainable Development” research and technology program, to effectively support research towards sustainability in economic activities of the Austraian Federal Government. Since 1999, the programme supported various research and development projects as well as measures to demonstrate and diffuse its results, giving Austria’s economy a new impetus to innovate. The program called “Energy Systems of Tomorrow” aims to encourage innovative, trend-setting technologies and concepts in the field of renewable energy to create the capacity for safeguarding energy supply on a long-term basis.

Link: Güssing Renewable Energy