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Posted on on September 22nd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Austria these days is an amazing country. Tuesday September 22nd the EU has declared an Auto-free day. In effect in Vienna this is the 10th auto free day and the famous Ring has been covered with rolled out grass. IG-Fahrrad, Global 2000, and Greenpeace are having a feast – parties are going on all over the Inner City and the day is gorgeous – just forget the drivers. You can have today a picnic on what used to be a busy street and you can dream of this becoming daily reality.

Saturday – Sunday, September 19 – 20, 2009, behind the Rathaus (City Hall), there were the 2009 Mobilty Days exhibits and lectures were given inside the Hall, see www.mobilitä with many different electric vehicles, electric bicycles, electric mopeds on display.

On Friday, September 18th, the Parliament met at a special session on Eco-Energy / Solar Energy with Eva Glaschwining, head of the Green Party pointing out that in Germany 134,000 jobs were created by eco-electricity facilities. Actually the cost of solar photo-voltaics is coming down, and a new bill is scheduled to be voted upon on Wednesday September 23rd. The debate in the Austrian Parliament is stilll – “how much solar and at what price.” The question indeed is why does Austria have established todate less solar then Slowakia? Yes, Austria historically is a country getting its electricity mainly from hydropower, but why not enlarge also the share of solar energy ?

But the high point was the:

“Global Energy Challenge – Time to Act”

Austrian Energy Conference
16 to 18 September 2009
at Hotel Jagdhoff, Schloss Fuschl near Salzburg.

From 16th to 18th September 2009 VERBUND, Austrias largest electricity group, hosted the biennial energy conference “energy2020”. The co-sponsors were:

OMV AG Siemens Österreich AG RZB PriceWaterhouseCoopers Schoeller-Bleckmann AG Salzburg AG Pöyry Energy

Media Partners:

ORF Die Presse

Organised by:

brainbows gmbh

From the above OMV and Schoeller Bleckman are obviously spokesmen for the oil industry and Price Waterhouse Coopers are business consultants that might be viewed as a business think tank.

Pöyry Energy GMBH – Austria is the former VERBUND-PLAN GMBH and thus an extension of the Austrian government like the ÖMV oil company – only that as everything else connected to Verbund it is heavily HYDROPOWER oriented. It is a consulting firm  doing hydropower project management and site supervision. Siemens AG Austria itself has moved its engineering into the realm of green technologies – similarly Salzburg AG which leaves

Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG as the bank eager to fund projects that are deemed slam-dunk economics.

The above team, let us say – lip service to oil but showing heavy intent to move front line on renewable energy thanks to the fact that the largest Austrian energy company, Verbund, the electricity provider and the owner of the electricity net in Austria, and a large contributor to the European net, has always produced the electricity it sells  – now 66% of its total market – from hydropower – this turning Austria in effect into clean energy producer even before that became fashionable.

One can thus say that the intent of this meeting – I think the 9th in a series of alternate years Verbund energy conferences – was clearly to position Austria as an environment loving country in the run-up to the December 2009 Copenhagen meeting. But then some of the presenter forged ahead, and even though the general opinion was – “do not expect much from Copenhagen” – though some of the presenters were ready to show the way that there is money to be made by implementing systems that replace with electricity the present common dependence on oil. In this respect the meeting was great indeed and proof that the oil folks do not have to win out anymore. Yes, they will not go away quietly, but a central government that knows were the wind blows, and that owns the industry, can also skew them and tone them down. ÖMV hardly was heard and only the secondary company was left to present the fact that in Austria the gas pipelines are part of National policy.

The two media companies among the co-sponsors are the Austrian TV and Radio monopoly ÖRF, and the right of center newspaper Die Presse that still is a strong adherent to the old-time conventional energy industries. They were involved in chairing the sessions.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers says: “Crisis or not, renewable energy is hot” and they analyze Biomass, Wind, Solar, Hydro, Geothermal, and Ocean pointing out that Hydro accounts today for 90% of all renewable power production, but nevertheless all renewables are making progress and that in 2007 the European RE market generated a revenue of US$ 74 billion (16% growth that year) aiming at US$ 225 billion by 2020.

The idea is that electricity will become the energy carrier for many activities that use now fossil fuels, and the argument is that much of this electricity will be from renewable sources. Stavros Dimas the European Commissioner on the Environment says that the EU policy represents a Green New Deal, and Ms. Irene Freudenschuss-Reichel head of Development Cooperation at the Austrian  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, distributed material on Energy Technologies for Sustainable Development in Central and Eastern Europe, but spoke on the more general topic of the rift between economic growth and climate change – the need for a global and just climate agreement.

From the long list of presentations we pick for enlargement the first morning presentation of the last day: The presenter was Mr. Amit Yudan, Europe Business Development Representative of the Palo Alto, California, Israel/US company that goes by the name “BETTER PLACE.” These people market not just a product but a Concept that they turn into a Service Contract. What these people will sign you up for is a contract to provide you electric mobility for X agreed upon kilometers / miles.

The idea is that they will change your car’s Lithium battery for a newly charged one, or provide for a fast charge – this because we know that what the customer wants is cheap mobility, and if his choice also helps the environment, so much the better – but it will work only if the service is good. The customer buys his car – any car of his liking, it does not have to be a small car, what he contracts with better place is the battery and its charging service. The electricity has to be from renewables, and the first contracts are with large corporations – such as 50 of the largest companies in Israel that already signed up and will start getting the service next year for vehicles that do 40-50 km/day.

At the International Automotive Industry largest show in Frankfurt, just a day earlier, Mr. Yudan  proceeded on an agreement with the Renault Company to outfit the first 100,000 of their cars with the Better Place Lithium Battery for the first two markets – in Israel and Denmark.

Now, here something to brag about in Copenhagen. Not so?

On my return from Fuschl to Vienna I learned some more about Austria’s enlightened buiness sector that intends to break into the electric mobility market – a clear winner when compared with the hybrids that are still being peddled in the US.

It seems that new Austrian and European alliances are on the horizon on the basis of the battery exchange / fast charge principle.

THE AUSTRIAN MOBILE POWER or the “e3 mobil” – stands for elektrish, erneuerbar, emissionsfrei – meaning “electric, renewable, emissions-free,” has now a few more fans.
Besides Verbund – the electricity provider and distributor, Siemens – the engineering company, there are now also Magna Steyr – the car manufacturer and REWE the largest super-markets company – owner of Billa, Merkur, Penny, and Bipa – that wants to sell the electricity battery charging service. All these companies were present at bhighest level watching the Yudan presentation and seeing how they can move into this in a united front.

More about the Fuschl meetings in follow up postings.

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