Pioneer of renewable energies in Austria: Professor Gerhard Faninger from the University of Klagenfurt received the Grand Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria.
Photo: Bärbel Epp
It does not happen every day that an Austrian citizen receives the Grand Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria. This medal is awarded to persons who have served the public in an outstanding way and possess a distinguished service record. That a pioneer of renewable energies would be its recipient, is by far a unique event. Christa Kranzl, State Secretary for research and innovation at the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, had presented Professor Gerhard Faninger from the University of Klagenfurt with this high-ranking decoration on the 17th of September, 2008.
Professor Faninger has essentially established energy research in Austria. In 1977, the then government asked him to give up his leading position in industrial research in Germany and return back to Vienna. He was given the assignment to develop an energy research concept that would serve as a basis for future Austrian energy policy – after usage of nuclear energy had been rejected by a national referendum – and to introduce proper measures for its implementation. This became the starting point of an intensive, 30-year research work in the area of renewables – at universities and research institutes as well as within the industrial sector. “I have represented Austria at the International Energy Agency (IEA) from the beginning and initiated numerous new research projects,“ the now 71-year old recounts. Tenacity and his techniques of gentle persuasion laid the groundwork for the professor's successful path. Since 1961, he has been teaching and working at several Austrian universities, among them the University of Leoben, the Vienna University of Technology and finally the University of Klagenfurt.
Furthermore, he already began to create market analyses when renewable energy sources had just been introduced to the market themselves. He continued with these analyses until the year 2006. Austrian manufacturers of solar collectors reported their sales figures to the university professor between 1977 and 2006, who then evaluated them personally and also checked them for plausibility. “We assured the industry businesses that their data will be used strictly confidential and destroyed questionnaires after analysis,“ Mr Faninger describes his principles.
Today, interested students can still contact the robust Emeritus professor – Mr Faninger has been honourably discharged from performance of public services 4 years ago. In addition, he continues to represent Austria in the IEA research programme named 'Solar Heating and Cooling' and is an honorary board member of the Austrian research institute AEE INTEC.