The Hungarian government made headlines in the autumn when it announced closing one of the first substantial AAU deals. The terms were kept confidential but it is widely understood that the proceeds were earmarked for investment into domestic energy efficiency measures.
Not for the first time that the Hungarian political elite is a step ahead of the rest. Shortly after the AAU sale was announced, in December 2008 President Obama described an economic stimulus plan involving a “massive effort to make public buildings more energy efficient … That won’t just save … billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.”
Therefore it was surprising to read in the press last week that in view of the economic crisis Hungary plans to put the proceeds of AAU sales into the general budget.
Large scale investment into energy efficiency is the perfect vehicle for economic stimulus. It gets to the man in the street. It brings immediate benefit to the householder in the next month’s gas and electricity bill. It is labour intensive and employs moderately skilled people who bear the brunt of recessionary unemployment. Insulation fitters, glaziers, boiler installers, plumbers, and electricians are far more likely to spend on domestic goods than imported goods, keeping the cash in the economy. A reduction in imported gas stems the economically damaging outflow of foreign currency to suppliers of oil and gas, taking pressure off the forint and balance of payments.
So rather than steal from the green investment scheme, the Hungarian government should be stuffing it with whatever cash it has.