Energy in Switzerland

Energy in Switzerland

Switzerland is aiming at becoming a net producer and exporter of renewable energy

Switzerland has some of the world’s leading universities and research thinktanks for energy technologies and applications. From photovoltaics to pumped storage hydropower, Switzerland is aiming at becoming a net producer and exporter of renewable energy equipment, as well as expanding its domestic use of this clean energy technology.

The next decade will see the Green Industrial Revolution transform all economies around the world. As renewable energies become more competitive and less dependent on subsidies, there will be pressure to remove market-distorting subsidies for traditional energy sources, such as nuclear and fossil fuels, which will quickly push them out of the market.

Around 70% of Switzerland’s total energy is imported, mostly in the form of oil, gas and other fuels.

Switzerland has the good fortune that with the Alps it can generate around 60% of its electricity from hydropower. The rest of its domestic power is primarily nuclear power. However, it imports and exports daily as much electricity as it consumes. It imports from France (primarily nuclear) and Germany (a mix of around half from coal, one-third renewable, and the rest nuclear).

Switzerland stores some of the excess electricity from these foreign sources in pumped storage hydroelectric plants (PSH), when the price is low, and regenerates electricity when the price is higher, including export to Italy.

The cost to the Swiss for energy imports is 11 billion francs per year.

Swiss nuclear reactors

In 2015, Switzerland generated 40% of its electrical energy from nuclear power and most of the remaining from hydropower.

Switzerland has 4 nuclear power plants, and 5 operating reactors. The total electrical capacity is 3,372 GW.

  • Mühleberg
  • Mühleberg, Canton Bern. 1972 operational. Boiling water reactor (BWR). 373 MW gross output. 3.0 GWh per year. It will decommissioned on the 20th December 2019.

  • Beznau I
  • Döttingen, Canton Aargau. 1969 operational (making it the oldest operational nuclear power station in the world). Pressure water reactor. 380 MW gross output. 5 GWh electrical power and 1.7 GWh district heating per year. Scheduled for decommissioning in 2017.

  • Beznau II
  • Döttingen, Canton Aargau. 1971 operational. Pressure water reactor. 380 MW gross output. 5 GWh electrical power and 1.7 GWh district heating per year. Scheduled for decommissioning in 2017.

  • Leibstadt
  • Leibstadt, Canton Aargau. 1984 operational. Boiling water reactor (BWR). 1,275 MW gross output. 9 GWh per year. Scheduled for decommissioning in 2029.

  • Gösgen
  • Däniken, Canton Solothurn. 1979 operational. Pressure water reactor. 1,060 MW gross output. 8 GWh per year. Scheduled for decommissioning in 2034.

Geothermal Potential in Switzerland

With the ambitions of Munich as a model, the positive vote of May 2017 for a sustainable energy future in Switzerland has stimulated great interest in the potential for geothermal energy.

The popular support for the energy strategy 2050 has opened new possibilities for geothermal energy in Switzerland. These include investment for exploration, geothermal energy guarantees, feed-in tariffs for petrothermal projects, and support for heating projects. Climate protection is expected to be enhanced by greater substitution of fossil heating systems by geothermal energy. “GEothermie 2020” is a Canton of Geneva initiative with this goal in mind.

Given the right geological conditions, geothermal energy can be a valuable addition to a local energy mix. Stadtwerke München (SWM) is a pioneer of geothermal power generation, for both electricity and heating. Munich aims by 2040 to become the first German city in which 100% of district heating is generated from regenerative energies. Part of this project is the further development of deep geothermal energy, exploiting the Malm layer – thermal water deposits with temperatures around 100°C under the southern part of the city of Munich. ETH is also researching the possibility of using geothermal CO2 to produce electricity.

GEothermie 2020 is a pilot programme being run in Geneva to explore the possibility of using 2 60m boreholes to raise water temperature from 14°C to 60°C, to generate 2 TWh of energy, enough to provide 600 homes with heating. It is part of a wider programme to utilise geothermal, waste incineration and natural gas to replace imported fossil fuel electricity, and save 61 tones of CO2 annually.