Roofs have been a part of our lives ever since our earliest ancestors crawled into caves, but it’s taken hundreds of years to get roofs to work for us. The latest trend in roof technology is not new shingles, or new metal, but green-conscious roofing components like solar panels and green roofing. Once an empty, unused space, the roof is now on the forefront of fighting climate change and urban issues like quality of life and the urban heat island effect. Whole countries are making use of roof space, including Austria.
Austria’s new government recently pledged a goal of 1 million roofs outfitted with solar panels by 2030. The nation has pledged to source all electricity from renewable resources by 2030 and to become completely carbon neutral by 2040.
The government and the new laws are led by a coalition of the Austrian’s People Party and the Green Party. The Austrian People’s Party is led by Sebastian Kurz who appointed a super minister for changes in energy, infrastructure, and environmental standards. The roofing and solar panel program has already been fixed into the new government with an agreement that runs from 2020 to 2024.
Austria’s new climate minister Leonore Gewessler believes in the power of solar energy to reverse decades of damage from fossil fuels. “Photovoltaics in general and the 1 million roof programme in particular will add substantially to these goals in a world where mobility is to be switched to electric driving and also fossil heating systems have to be replaced speedily during the next decades,” said Gewessler.
Austria’s pledge comes with others to make use of their roofs for renewable energy and higher quality of living. In 2019, New York City passed Sustainable Roofing Laws, which require solar or green roof installation on new roof constructions or large-scale roof replacements. In 2016, Denver, Colorado voters passed the Green Roofing Ordinance which requires all new roof builds and replacements over 25,000 sq. feet to require a green roofing component like reflective roofing, planted roofs, or solar panels.
The pledge also lines up with the Solar4Buildings effort, which calls for solar panel installation on all buildings in the EU. Jasmin Duregger of Greenpeace Austria applauds the efforts by the new Austrian government but recognizes solar panels won’t fix everything. “Energy demand is still rising,” said Duregger. “Only an effective energy-efficiency law can guarantee that we not only cover rising energy demand with solar power, but also replace and phase out fossil fuels.”