Swiss: U-turn in Energy Policy
 Swiss: U-turn in Energy Policy

Swiss: U-turn in Energy Policy

The 25 May may prove to be a historically important turn in Switzerland’s energy policy: The Swiss Federal Council adopted a law stipulating that no new nuclear power stations are to be built in the country. The existing plants could run as long as the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) certifies they are safe. There are five nuclear power plants in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Council calculates with each having an overall operation time of 50 years, which means the last power plant, Leibstadt, would be shut down in 2034.

The 25 May has also seen the publication of the Energy Strategy 2050, which describes the path into a nuclear-free future, with a mix of electricity savings and renewable energies. Part of the documents is a “Draft of an Action Plan Energy Strategy 2050” (see the attached document), which lists a wide range of measurements that are hoped to be evaluated in the near future. The 19-page document considers the solar thermal sector as well.

Item 21 on the draft speaks of an increase in energy efficiency of newly constructed buildings by using solar heating. To achieve that aim, the action plan proposes two measures:

First an increase in the share of renewable energies covering heating demand, in order to put solar thermal technology in the spotlight of regulation fulfilment. So far, new residential buildings in Switzerland have had to cover 20 % of their total heating demand by renewable energies such as solar thermal, heat pumps, biomass or district heating.

Second: The action plan also mentions the scheme stipulating a renewable share in domestic hot water, which some cantons, such as Geneva, Basel-Country and Vaud, have put in place. This mandatory requirement, which is most often met by a solar installation, is meant to be implemented countrywide.

Item 24 on the draft deals with the incentive programme which is to replace electric boilers and electric night storage heaters. So far, the exchange of an electric heating system has been rebated from the CHF 10 million budget allocated to the economic programme 2009. The action plan considers a similar financial mechanism, which would support the replacement of electric boilers by solar water heaters.

The Swiss solar thermal market grew by an average 43 % between 2006 and 2009. The latest official market figure from the association Swissolar is from 2009, claiming a newly installed collector area of 146,750 m2, with a 7 % share of vacuum tubes. The official market statistics for 2010 are expected in June.

Swiss Federal Council:


Baerbel Epp

Bärbel Epp is Founder and Director of the German communication and market research agency solrico and editor-in-chief of