International Energy Agency (IEA) recommends that Switzerland speed up the restructuring of its energy system

Press releases, 11.09.2023

The International Energy Agency (IEA) considers Switzerland's energy policy to be on the right track, but that progress is too slow. It therefore recommends that Switzerland press ahead more quickly with converting its energy system. The federal government, in cooperation with the cantons, should speed up the licensing procedures for energy infrastructures. Climate policy measures effective from 2030 onwards should also be defined as quickly as possible in order to achieve the net zero emissions target by 2050. Furthermore, the IEA suggests that energy efficiency measures be consistently taken into account in all relevant Swiss policies. According to the IEA, integration into the European electricity market by means of an electricity agreement would strengthen both Switzerland's and the EU member states' security of electricity supply.

The IEA report on Switzerland's energy policy was presented to the media in Bern on Monday, 11 September, by Mary Burce Warlick, Deputy Executive Director of the IEA.

The IEA welcomes the measures that Switzerland implemented swiftly in response to the global energy crisis (in particular hydropower reserve, reserve power plants), which are effective in the short term. It is also in favour of the Bill on a Secure Electricity Supply from Renewable Energy Sources (energy legislation amendment package), which is currently before Parliament. This contains measures to achieve binding and long-term energy and climate targets and to strengthen winter electricity supply.

The IEA also gives high marks to the solar and wind initiatives passed by Parliament; these aim to enable the rapid construction of Alpine solar power plants. Projects for various wind power plants are also well advanced in the approval process. In addition, on 21 June, the Federal Council submitted a bill to Parliament to speed up licensing procedures.

Agreement with the EU

The IEA recommends that Switzerland align its electricity market regulations with those of the EU and conclude an electricity agreement. This would result in lower costs for system services in the transmission grid for Swiss consumers and strengthen the security of electricity supply in Switzerland, as well as in the EU member states.

With reference to the energy crisis, the IEA states that in order to secure its gas supply, Switzerland would benefit from having a regulatory authority and a coordinating grid company. The tasks of these bodies should be defined in the planned Gas Supply Act. Furthermore, the IEA recommends that the federal government draw up national strategies for hydrogen, e-fuels and other renewable gases and examine what role they can play in sectors that are proving difficult to decarbonise. This would allow Switzerland to consider an agreement with the EU on gas and hydrogen at a later date.

According to the IEA, Switzerland could make more rapid progress in implementing its energy and climate policy measures if it were to apply suitable steps to address three key bottlenecks. The IEA sees these bottlenecks firstly in the lack of skilled workers, for example for the installation of heat pumps or charging stations for electric vehicles. Secondly, in the slow licensing procedures for renewable energy production facilities and electricity grids. And thirdly, in interruptions in the international supply chains for components and equipment in the energy sector.

Energy efficiency and buildings

The IEA suggests that the principle of 'energy efficiency first' be systematically taken into account in all relevant policies in Switzerland. Furthermore, the federal government and the cantons should consistently lead the way in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energies, for example through the energy-efficient renovation of government buildings.

In the buildings sector, the IEA welcomes the federal government's heating strategy published in 2023, which includes renewable energy resources such as bioenergy, geothermal energy, ambient heat and waste heat from industrial processes. The IEA recommends, among other things, using renewable solutions to help cover peak loads for district heating and increasing underground exploration so that it can be harnessed for heating and heat storage.

Loss of know-how in nuclear energy sector

In the field of nuclear energy, the IEA warns of a loss of know-how as the field is losing its appeal among young specialists due to Switzerland's gradual phase-out. This could have a negative impact on the long-term operation of existing nuclear power plants and on Switzerland's other activities in the nuclear sector. There is a need for skilled labour for all activities related to nuclear energy, for example decommissioning, waste disposal and storage. With regard to the deep geological repositories, the IEA recommends continuing and further deepening the good cooperation with the local authorities concerned.

The IEA commends the 'Swiss Energy research for the energy transition' (SWEET) programme, which supports inter- and transdisciplinary research and innovation activities for the Energy Strategy 2050 and Switzerland's long-term climate policy. With funding for SWEET set to expire in 2025, the IEA recommends quickly taking steps to secure further funding. The IEA also suggests improving coordination between universities, think tanks and research institutes on research programmes, projects and research data.

The IEA conducts an in-depth review of the energy policies of its member countries roughly every five years. For the latest in-depth review, an international review team visited Switzerland from 22 to 28 November 2022. It met with numerous experts from federal and cantonal authorities, energy companies, associations and other organisations. It examined the objectives, instruments and successes of energy policy in general and in particular in the areas of energy and climate, energy efficiency, renewable energies, energy research, electricity, natural gas, nuclear energy and oil. The individual topics are discussed in detail, evaluated and accompanied by recommendations in the approximately 130-page report (Energy Policies of IEA Countries - Switzerland, 2023 Review).

Further information:

IEA – International Energy Agency - IEA
IEA Review 2022 - An analysis of Swiss energy policy | SFOE magazine energeiaplus | Energy magazine of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy

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