Roger Léron Award 2018 Nominee
Illustration : Gerhard PROIßL
Gerhard Proißl has been active in energy efficiency, waste avoidance, environment and climate protection for more than 30 years. With actions of communication and networking toward the stakeholders both inside and outside his region, Lower Austria, he managed to show the whole region Waldviertel, and especially Thayaland, is an energy model region. As a chairman of the Energy Agency of the Regions for the last 20 years, he was the founder of diverse regional institutions (Energiewerkstatt, Ecology Platform, Economy Forum, Waldviertel Academy). As a district commissioner, he was connecting local, regional and national interests and stakeholders. He also supported local working groups for climate alliance, environmental protection, public transport, waste management, solar and wind power. Personally, he voluntarily invested hours of his time without any financial remuneration into the planning, preparation, and holding of numberless workshops, board meetings, general assemblies, round tables, campaigns, projects, and diverse other activities.
Between 1983 and 1992, Gerhard Proißl was active and successful as deputy district commissioner with local campaigns for careful use of resources and energy. From 1992 – 2006, he was the district commissioner of the Thayaland (region Waldviertel / Lower Austria). He did his job, not as a typical head of administration, but rather as a multi-active former. One of his big efforts was that all municipalities should cooperate as much and as well as possible. To achieve that, he was the driving force for integrating all of them into one common micro-region (an association with mayors and the district commissioner and the chairman of the regional chamber of commerce as board members).
From 1994 to 1996 he was co-founder and board member of the regional “Energiewerkstatt Nördliches Waldviertel”. During that time, a lot of other activities were realised in the region such as the first biomass district heating projects (mainly wood chips but also straw). From 1997 he was the founder and chairman of the regional Ecology Platform “Waldviertel”, a unique working group, consisting of local organisations/institutions from diverse fields (energy, agriculture, biology, food, environmental advisory, water, regional development, citizens participation, education, …). In this platform, there was a place to discuss actual issues as well as visions and ideas for new things – projects, campaigns, events etc. Many regional projects, campaigns, events, and initiatives were developed there.
From 1996 to 1997 he was the head of a working group that developed the idea for a regional energy agency and elaborated a concept for it. In 1997 a proposal for an energy agency in the SAVE programme of the EU there was successfully submitted – in the 2nd attempt. Since the establishment of the energy agency in 1998 until now he has been the chairman of this agency. Therefore, the year 2018 is the year of the 20th anniversary of the agency as well as his 75th birthday. At first, the name was Energy Agency Waldviertel. As the geographic coverage of the work was expanded to the whole region of Lower Austria, the agency was renamed to Energy Agency of The Regions. From 2007 to 2009 he was a member of a working group that developed the successful concept for the “Economy Forum Waldviertel”.
Gerhard Proißl was permanently active inside and outside the region in communicating and networking for motivating and encouraging the stakeholders (policy, economy, society, education, …) to get involved with the energy transition, the environment and climate protection. As a board member of the Waldviertel Academy until 2018 he made sure, that energy issues were consistently part of diverse regional events of the academy. As chairman of the association, he had during the 20 years until now the financial responsibility for the energy agency. He invested voluntarily approximatively 5.000 hours of his private time without economic self-interest and without any financial remuneration into the planning, preparation, and holding of numberless workshops, board meetings, general assemblies, round tables… and also into the planning and establishment of campaigns, projects, and diverse other activities.
In total, he is already for more than 30 years active in the field of energy efficiency, waste avoidance, environment and climate protection.
The whole region Waldviertel and especially the Thayaland emerged during the period of his work as an energy model region. Some examples of the numberless successful and sustainable achievements:
Gerhard Proißl pursues the strategic energy vision for the region in 3 main roles. In his 1st and most important role for the energy transition, he is since 20 years the chairman of the Energy Agency of The Regions. The founding of the agency was already an important strategic action. Then, in the public and also in the background, he was continuously arguing the energy targets in regular round tables with mayors, environmental councillors, other district commissioners, departments of the government of the country Lower Austria and representatives of ministries. In his role as chairman of the Energy Agency, he was also integrated into the discussion processes and in the dissemination of the regional energy concepts on the local and regional levels. And he was founder and representative of diverse regional institutions – Energiewerkstatt, Ecology Platform, Economy Forum, Waldviertel Academy… In his 2nd role, as the district commissioner and so as the head of the regional administration, he was a connector between the regional interests/stakeholders and the interests and stakeholders from the country and the state. In this role, he was the head of the district civil protection and emergency management among other duties – e.g. during big flood waters in 2001 and 2006. In the 3rd role he is, as a private person, a model for the others. He is taking the targets and contents seriously, which he is arguing and disseminating in his roles as chairman, board member or district commissioner.
In his 1st role as chairman of the Energy Agency of The Regions, he motivated municipalities to join this association. He addressed audiences during events. He continuously told the diverse regional stakeholders (policy, economy, society, education, …) about the offers and opportunities they can use to accomplish the regional energy transition. In his 2nd role as the district commissioner, he enabled speeches and presentations about the energy transition and about concrete offers and projects during the regular mayors’ conferences. In approval procedures of projects (building renovation, industrial plants, sewage plants, heating plants, district heating, …) he used all opportunities to recommend taking into account solutions that save energy and to use renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. He supported members of local working groups for climate alliance, environmental protection, public transport, waste management, solar power, wind power, … In his 3rd role as a private person, he tells “everybody” in his surrounding field about the acuteness of the energy transition for the climate and environment protection and the energy security and value creation in the region. As an example, he is participating in regional citizen participation models with private money.