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Gas Boss Urges Govt to Invest in Energy Efficiency (interview)

Ljubljana, 03 April (STA) - Slovenia's economy will not pull out of crisis before 2015, says Tomaž Grm, boss of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) distributor Butan plin. But he maintains that the government could help by subsidising an upgrade in energy efficiency.

Grm, who believes that natural gas is the energy product for the coming 50 years at least, has told an interview with the STA that many houses and apartment buildings waste energy due to poor insulation.

"The economy could also be restarted through higher subsidies for the replacement of windows and facade insulation (than the current 25%).

"This would on one hand increase the demand for insulation materials produced in Slovenia and for building works, while on the other reducing the consumption of heating energy at households by up to 40% on the other.

"The project could be joined by banks, which could finance investments at low risk because the loans would be dispersed," Grm proposes.

The government could in his view also use incentives to change the business environment, thus paving the way for the arrival of new investors, as well as restart the economy with its own investment projects.

This would require raising fresh capital by selling certain companies, possibly also certain concessions, Grm says, adding though that being an export economy, Slovenia depends on demand in partner countries.

Butan plin as the biggest LPG distributor in the country feels the impact of the crisis mainly in the households segment as consumers are careful with their money.

Some 30,000 households use LPG for heating and 400,000 for cooking. They consume between 30,000 and 40,000 tonnes a year, while a further 50,000-60,000 tonnes is used by industry, transport, hospitality sector.

The price of LPG rose by about 10% in the past year and is about 20% higher than the price of natural gas, which Grm says is the energy product of the future, considering both the price and impact on the environment.

While welcoming alternative energy sources, Grm estimates the percentage in the energy consumption is going to be low at around 10%, possibly up to 20%.

"If Slovenians opted for the use of biomass exclusively, the forest would be gone in a few years. In case of solar or wind energy, we'd need a back up for days when there's no wind or sun."

Grm believes that Slovenia's energy future will depend on coal and nuclear power, and possibly gas, provided progress in the construction of gas terminals in the Gulf of Trieste, which he supports.

Butan plin also focuses on micro co-generation, which Grm says is currently sensible for users such as restaurants, while still being too costly for households.

The company generated EUR 2.7m in net profit last year, which is below projections, but not bad compared to other companies, Grm says, pointing to a loss of orders by the biggest buyer, energy group Petrol, and the weather.

The plans for this year are similar with the target profit of around EUR 3m and the goal of boosting sales and obtaining new customers.

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