Swiss businesses call for nation to rise to the energy challenge

Switzerland faces a huge challenge in its efforts to shift away from fossil fuels to a more reliable and greener energy future, but determined and hard work has to start right now and be driven by the national council of states, according to Swiss business federation economiesuisse.

In a recent analysis, Alexander Keberle, member of the board and leader of infrastructure, energy and the environment at economiesuisse, outlines the huge challenges facing Switzerland as it faces up to the energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“At the moment there are some indications that we will get through this winter again without a power shortage. While this is good news, the next winter is sure to come. Just in time for Halloween, the spectre of an impending power shortage could haunt us every autumn,” writes Keberle.

“Not only is the unpronounceable word strommangel [electricity shortage] itself spooky, but also how far we are from mastering the situation. If you compare the expected additional demand for electricity of over 50% by 2050 with the elimination of nuclear power, we have to expand by 50 terawatt hours. That is almost double the generation capacity available to us today. In terms of expansion, storage, costs and efficiency, this reaches unimaginable dimensions,” he continues.

Keberle identifies four core challenges. These are Extension to solar and wind, storage, cost and efficiency.

On extension, he says: “If we were to rely on solar power for the most part, depending on the assumptions and forecasts, solar panels would need to be about half, maybe even several times the area of ​​Lake Geneva. The expansion of solar energy must proceed two to three times faster than today. Wind power can also make a contribution – an average wind turbine in the Jura, for example, replaces about three soccer fields of solar panels.”

On storage, the main problem is in winter because in summer there is an excess of electricity, says Keberle.

“We therefore have to store summer electricity and make it available in winter. How much storage will be necessary is difficult to estimate and depends on many factors. Storage in Switzerland is always a challenge, as the most promising storage options entail considerable challenges,” he adds.

Keberle explains that hydrogen, for example, would need an enormous amount of space (up to 25 times the Gotthard tube), or synthetic fuels a lot of extra energy – up to 4.5 times the entire roof area of ​​Switzerland for solar panels.

Cost is the third big challenge. “The expansion of renewable energy will be expensive. The energy costs per person and per year are currently about CHF3,000. For generation and storage alone, these could well double or triple by 2050. In addition, large investments are pending. Estimates assume a high double-digit billion amount for the network expansion alone,” states Keberle.

And efficiency is the fourth barrier. “If we use more electricity by 2050, we will need to drastically reduce overall energy consumption to meet climate targets. In the energy perspectives, the SFOE calculates that around 40% reduction is necessary. The overdue digitalisation of the infrastructure is an important prerequisite for this,” adds Keberle.

The economiesuisse board member notes that, at first glance, these challenges may seem daunting but they simply have to be tackled.

“Energy is so important to all of us that the question cannot be whether we will achieve our goals, but how. And this shows that there is no patent solution. The path requires a lot of effort and good ideas. That’s also why we shouldn’t pretend to know now what the future will bring. Instead of promoting individual technologies and banning others, we should limit ourselves to creating good framework conditions for research and the expansion of climate-neutral energy supply and massively accelerating processes,” says Keberle.

“The Council of States has already taken the first necessary, if not sufficient, step with the proposal for a general enactment. It is to be hoped that the National Council will continue to pursue the path it has taken in a determined and swift manner,” he concludes.

Back to top button