The members of OeEB's executive board, Andrea Hagmann and Michael Wancata, talk about why and how the Development Bank supports more resource efficiency in its target countries.
OeEB has defined resource efficiency as one of the focal points of its strategy. Why this topic?
Andrea Hagmann: The topic has been with us from the beginning. Growth in developing countries is more dynamic than here but the consumption of resources cannot increase at the same pace for long. Growth must be sustainable and we have to use the limited resources carefully. With financings that focus on resource efficiency, we are not just contributing to development but also to climate protection. It is not only developing countries and emerging markets that profit from this, but also industrial countries.
Michael Wancata: With regard to energy efficiency, the International Energy Agency refers to a "hidden" source of energy. In order to bring about global effects, it is important that many development financiers act in concert – which is the case. In this way, OeEB can make a valuable contribution.
Is resource efficiency a focal point in all countries in which OeEB is active?
W: Efficiency is certainly less of an issue in the "Least Developed Countries" than in those that are a step further. In Southern Africa for example, the most pressing issue is making sure that people have basic access to energy or water – the efficient use of, say, energy is not yet being discussed.
H: In a country with fossil fuel deposits like Azerbaijan, where oil costs next to nothing, the starting position is difficult. Where energy is more expensive, energy efficiency and renewable energy are in sharper focus. We see a lot of potential for example in Turkey, Armenia and in Georgia.
Is it possible to get people in these countries enthused about this issue?
H: The primary motivation for such investments in developing countries is monetary. You have to demonstrate to people what benefits they get: insulating the house better means that you have more money left over in the long run – you can motivate people like this. But the more developed a country is, the more ecological considerations play a role.
W: In order to reach people in the target countries, we work together with local banks. First of all, you have to explain the field of energy efficiency to the employees of the bank and train them appropriately so that they can pass on this information to their clients on-site.
Resource efficiency is a broad field, there are innumerable possibilities for improvement – where do you start?
W: OeEB contributes to building up private enterprises, and therefore to the development of the private sector. In this sector, energy efficiency is a fundamental issue and very much in the foreground; for this reasons, most of our projects are in this area.
H: Loans for energy efficiency which are granted to banks are aimed primarily at households, SMEs and the agricultural sector – for better house insulation or for purchasing solar panels for example. However, we do not just offer loans but also Advisory Programmes – via such programmes, we can – for example – offer energy audits.
Do you see any points of contact for Austrian companies in OeEB projects?
W: As far as renewable energy is concerned, especially hydroelectric power, Austrian firms have a lot of know-how. We see, for example, that a lot of Austrian companies are active in Georgia, where we finance small hydroelectric power plants.
H: The market for energy efficiency is more compartmentalised, but there are also opportunities. As part of a market sounding trip to Armenia which was undertaken by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO) and OeEB, there was a B2B meeting with our business partner bank. This resulted in many meetings with potential local partners for the Austrian firms that came on the trip.
What does resource efficiency mean for OeEB and for you personally?
W: We offer financing for projects all over the world. The work we do in the countries where the projects are require that we travel by plane. However, through a reforestation programme in Ethiopia run by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), we compensate for the CO2 emissions caused by the flights we take.
H: If we go on business trips to other countries, it frequently happens that the lights go out during a meeting due to a power cut. It can also happen that a room is overheated during the winter but the windows are left open. This also makes me more conscious of the way I treat these facilities at home.