Swiss Renewable Energy: All You Need To Know

renewable energy

Renewable energy sources have become increasingly important over the past couple of decades, and Switzerland is one of the many countries that have embraced their importance for the future. If you want to find out more about the renewable energy sources that Switzerland relies on, you’ve come to the right place.

While the country still relies on natural gas, fossil fuels, and nuclear power for energy production, the importance of these non-renewable energy sources is getting smaller every year.

Switzerland is shifting towards sustainable and renewable energy sources in an attempt to transform its energy economy to be as sustainable as possible, in order to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Achieving an energy transition to renewables is not an easy task, and here’s everything you need to know about how the government plans to achieve it!

Renewable Energy Sources in Switzerland

Switzerland relies on four main sources of renewable energy: hydroelectric power, solar power, wind energy, and biomass. Hydropower plants and biomass are the main sources of renewable energy in the country, while wind energy and solar are considered new renewable energy sources.

Hydroelectric Power

Hydroelectric Power
Hydroelectric Power

Hydroelectric Power is the largest source of renewable energy in Switzerland, with more than 600 hydroelectric plants throughout the country. It’s estimated that these power plants account for 62% of all electricity produced in Switzerland, which serves to illustrate just how important they are for energy production.

One of the key factors behind Switzerland’s reliance on hydroelectric power is the topography of the country. With countless bodies of water throughout Switzerland and a very high annual rainfall, it’s fairly easy for the Swiss to rely on hydropower as their main source of renewable electricity.

Only 9% of the electricity produced in Switzerland comes from other renewable sources, which include solar power, wind power, and biomass.

Solar Power

Solar panels in Rigi
Solar panels in Rigi

The Swiss government has made attempts to increase the production of solar power in the country and they’ve mostly been successful. There has been a steady increase in the amount of energy produced by PV (photovoltaic) technologies throughout the years, and it’s expected that the use of these technologies will only grow in the years to come.

The main reason why the government is pushing for more reliance on solar power is its versatility. Photovoltaic technologies are most often used for the production of electricity, but they’re also useful in thermal systems (production of hot water and auxiliary heating).

Solar panels are also one source of renewable energy that is becoming increasingly accessible to common people. Throughout the years they’ve become very popular in households because they allow people to reduce their electricity bills and even store energy that they can access during power outages.

Wind Energy

Wind turbine in Andermatt
Wind turbine in Andermatt

Wind energy plants rely on kinetical energy to convert mechanical energy into electricity. Switzerland’s first facility for the production of wind energy was constructed in Langenbruck back in 1986, and nowadays there are nearly 40 such facilities throughout the country. The Langenbruck facility produced just 28 kilowatts, whereas the modern facilities have a combined electrical output of 140-gigawatt hours.

Approximately two-thirds of Switzerland’s wind energy production happens in the winter months. This renewable energy source perfectly complements both hydro and solar power, which have the largest output in the summer months.

The country’s largest wind park is situated in the Bernese Jura, on Mont Crosin. It has an electrical energy output of 37.2 megawatts, which is generated by a total of 16 large wind turbines. Some other large wind parks in Switzerland are in Valais, Lucerne, and Uri cantons.

Biomass

recycling organic waste
Recycling organic waste

Biomass is one of the most versatile renewable energy sources because it can be used for the production of electricity, heat, and fuel. It accounts for roughly 25% of utilized energy that comes from renewable sources, which makes it the second most commonly used renewable source, right after hydropower.

In the year 2000, the Swiss government banned the disposal of organic waste in landfills and included it in the country’s recycling strategy. Since then, the use of biomass for energy production has increased, partly thanks to the dedication of Swiss households. Biomass is also a byproduct of the agricultural sector, forestry, housing developments, trade, and industry.

Recycling in Switzerland is an entirely different topic that I can’t really get into right now, but what you should know is that almost everything gets recycled. All the main garbage collection points in the city have dedicated spots where locals can dispose of organic waste, which then gets thrown into incinerators and turned into energy.

Switzerland Energy Strategy 2050

Switzerland Energy Strategy 2050 is a long-term plan with the aim to reduce how much the country depends on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by the year 2050. The action plan was initially developed in 2017 but has been updated multiple times since its inception.

The main goals outlined in this plan are to promote renewable energy supply, reduce primary energy consumption, increase overall energy efficiency, upgrade the existing energy grids throughout the country, and eventually prohibit the construction of new nuclear power plants.

The Swiss government wants to phase out nuclear energy slowly, and eventually stop using it entirely for electric energy production. However, it’s important to note that this concerns only the energy that is produced on the territory of Switzerland; the country still imports approximately 70% of all the energy consumed in the country.

The energy demand remains at the same level throughout the year, but the production of energy is higher in the summer than in the winter. So, Switzerland is able to export surplus energy in the summer but needs to import more energy in the winter months.

Additionally, it’s important to mention that the Swiss government has put many incentives in place, in order to get companies and even households to shift to renewables. Energy-efficient homes can get 20% tax deductions, plus the government offers 30% subsidies on the cost of all solar installations.

There are also subsidies for investments in wind parks and biomass plants, and these are up to 60%. Finally, we can’t talk about sustainability and renewable energy without mentioning electric vehicles and their role in decarbonization. The country has an EV market that’s rapidly growing, and many Swiss cantons offer subsidies and partial refunds on purchases of fully electric vehicles.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *