>@EIB/W. Henisch

Austria has embarked upon an ambitious programme for improving the energy performance of buildings, which covers both rehabilitation and new construction projects. Comprehensive promotional programmes at national and regional level are now being co-financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) under a EUR 150m framework loan. The contract for an initial EUR 50m tranche was signed today in Vienna between the EIB and Bausparkasse der Österreichischen Sparkassen AG ("Erste BAU"), which will make the funds available to borrowers.

Through these promotional programmes launched by its national and regional governments, Austria is aiming to improve the quality of its housing. The EIB loan will be used to co-finance refurbishment schemes that will enhance the energy efficiency of residential and public buildings and also new housing with an energy efficiency performance substantially above the required minimum level in Austria.

In this way, the country is seeking to increase the proportion of buildings that consume almost no energy and are supplied from renewable energy sources. These buildings are also referred to as "nearly zero energy buildings" (NZEB). Austria will thus comply with the EU directive requiring that all new buildings in the EU meet NZEB standards by 2021. For public buildings, this requirement already comes into effect in 2019.

The EIB loan will be available for projects leading to documented energy savings and or increased use of renewable energies. These may include, for example, improvements to building shells or heating systems. Projects that use renewable energies for heating and electricity are also eligible. Both private and public sector projects may benefit from the funds.

An investment of EUR 1bn in thermal building measures creates around 12 000 additional jobs. In comparison, an equivalent investment in private consumption generates around 4 000 jobs and in exports around 6 000 jobs.

At the signing ceremony for this loan, EIB Vice-President Wilhelm Molterer commented, "Austria is addressing the energy efficiency issue with great commitment at all levels. This will not only have a positive effect on housing quality and the energy balance, but will also be of considerable benefit to the country’s construction industry, as significant know-how must be developed and applied to ensure the right solutions. These factors played an important role in the EIB's decision to finance this operation." 

Josef Schmidinger, CEO of s Bausparkasse, emphasised the importance of energy efficiency for private provisions for the future, "Energy efficiency is the best form of savings! By investing in thermal insulation and energy reduction measures, real provisions can be generated as energy costs in the future will be cut, reducing the burden of future heating costs". This also provided the incentive for s Bausparkasse to undertake the processing and distribution of the promotional funds. "Affordable accommodation begins with reasonable purchase prices per square metre of residential property and ends with low energy costs on a daily basis."

This EIB/s Bausparkasse project is also receiving crucial support from the Ministry of the Economy and the Environment. "Energy efficiency is the focal point of modern energy policy. More efficient energy use helps households and businesses to reduce energy costs and generates value added for the economy and the environment. The regional construction industry and its associated sectors benefit from additional orders, which secure jobs and reduce CO2 emissions on a long-term basis", stressed Economy and Energy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner.  "We are therefore also promoting the thermal rehabilitation of houses, apartments and businesses in Austria with the tried and tested renovation voucher system".