A couple of weeks ago some of our team had the chance to go to Guessing, an (almost) energy-independent small town in Austria. They joined a Chinese Biomass Delegation who wanted to learn about how Guessing went from a debt-ridden, rather desolate place to a thriving community.
In the 1980ies, Guessing was an economically disadvantaged community with no industry and only small scale agriculture. Unemployment rate was high, 70% of local employees had to commute long distances. Undeveloped infrastructure and the high cost of fossil fuel were further disadvantages of the town.
Since the 1990 there has been a gradual development of local decentralized self-sufficiency based on local resources, mainly biomass. It was intended to spur local job creation and development. Guessing’s goal at the time was “To get independent from fossil energy in order to strengthen the regional added value!”
The developed Guessing model is based on:
- Energy Efficiency measures and biomass (forestry) based heating
- Gradual development of district heating
- Stable energy price in comparison to oil heating
- Production of electricity from biomass (wood gasification) and solar PV
Being a wholesome concept, the Guessing model uses waste from local agriculture and new local businesses such as a wooden floor company to power several biological and thermal gasification plants, mainly run as cogeneration systems using excess heat for the new district heat system.
Several demonstration plants („ökoEnergieland“) include not only systems based on bioenergy, but also some solar and PV systems.
Emissions have decreased (37,000 t/a in 1996, 22,500 t/a in 2009), and if the current level of energy use would be supplied by fossil fuels, CO2 emissions would be 70,000 tons per year. Instead, Guessing enjoys economic and industrial growth, but lower emissions.
Today Guessing has over 20,000 visitors a year and is proud of having become a model area.
The future will see surrounding villages and towns join forces. Guessing aims to achieve self-sufficiency for heat by 2014, and electric power self-sufficiency by 2017. Ambitious goals also see fuel self-sufficiency by 2020.
Guessing supports replication in other parts of the world, and the Chinese’s business delegation walked away with many ideas and plans to implement the Guessing model in their part of the world. The REEEP team enjoyed the day out and gained valuable insights into the philosophy and technology that turned Guessing into a success story.