Solar Energy in Switzerland
Switzerland has made a strong commitment to the energy transition, but how important is solar energy to its new Energy Strategy?
In Switzerland, 174 kWh of solar power and 13 kWh of wind power were produced per capita in 2016, which is very small compared to the other European countries, ranking Switzerland at a poor 25th out of 29. The frontrunner, Denmark, produces 12 times as much per head.
- Top Ten Photovoltaic in Europe /kWh per person
- Germany 465
- Italy 372
- Greece 364
- Belgium 260
- Malta 237
- Czech Republic 202
- Bulgaria 180
- Switzerland 174
- Spain 171
- Luxembourg 170
Solar energy is available everywhere on Earth, but it is subject to huge daily and yearly fluctuations. The solar constant (a measure of the EMR – electromagnetic radiation – incident on a plane perpendicular to the incoming rays) is on average 1361 W/m². Solar irradiation will vary from zero at the poles to maximum 2500 W/m², in the desert regions. The latitude, altitude, season and weather conditions of the location will all affect the solar radiation.
Switzerland, lying at between 45.8° and 47.7° North, or halfway between the equator and the north pole, has an average insolation of ca. 4-600 W/m², or peak power of 1100-1200 W/m².
The KEV subsidy
Switzerland has a system of subsidies to compensate solar panel owners for the difference in price between the cost of their renewable electricity (from wind, small water, biomass, photovoltaic or geothermal energy) and the grid price. This is the KEV (“kostendeckende Einspeisevergütung” or “cost-covering feed-in tariff”), similar to the German cost-covering feed-in tariff (FIT). A cap on the total cost, however, has led to a long waiting list for applications. Over 90% of the installations on the waiting list are photovoltaic plants, of which 45% have an installed capacity of less than 10 kWp.
If all 35,000 projects on the waiting list were built, Switzerland would have 416 kWh solar and 196 kWh of wind power, or a total of 612 kWh per person. The Energy Act (Energiegesetz) of Switzerland sets 848 kWh per inhabitant as an interim guideline target. In 2016, the total consumption of electricity was just under 6.994 kWh per person.
The aim of the Swiss Energy Act (EnG) of 26 June 1998 is to make the energy supply safe, rational and environmentally friendly. From 2000 to 2030 the average annual production of electricity from renewable energy sources is to be increased to at least 5.4 TWh (or 8.5% of the total of 63.7 TWh in 2016). In order to promote domestic and renewable energies, KEV is intended to make up the difference between the production costs and the current market price.
The aim is to make it possible for the plant operator to generate energy economically. Electrical energy is sold at the market price, but the plant operator is paid a reimbursement per unit of power generated. The remuneration depends on the technology and plant size. In order to finance the remuneration, consumers pay a surcharge for the electricity transmission costs in the KEV compensation plug. Since 2013 this has been set at a maximum of 0.7 Rp./kWh. This is less than 10% of the surcharge levied on customers in Germany (6.85 euro cents in 2017).
In order to benefit from funding, the technology to be promoted must meet the legal requirements. The remuneration rate is recalculated periodically based on the cost of a reference plant, depending on the performance class and technology for new plants. The reference system within a technology corresponds to the currently most efficient available technology. The effective remuneration rate for an installation is fixed at the time of commissioning and remains unchanged during the remuneration period of 20 years.