Do you want to quickly find out about individual topics and facts on the electricity market in Switzerland? Then don't look any further. Here are the answers – short and sweet.
The Swiss electricity market
Electricity production: Over the past 25 years, Switzerland has generated an average of 60 terawatt hours (TWh = 60 billion kilowatt hours) of net electricity. However, net generation fluctuates between 53 and 68 TWh depending on the year. In 2018, domestic electricity generation (net) amounted to 63.5 TWh.
Power stations in Switzerland: There are 650 hydroelectric power stations in Switzerland today with an output of at least 300 kilowatts (kW) from the generator, around 1000 small hydroelectric power stations, four nuclear power stations (the Mühleberg nuclear power station will be shut down by the operator BKW on 20 December 2019), 37 large wind power plants, around 70,000 photovoltaic plants and around 960 thermal electricity production plants (biogas, waste incineration, cogeneration plants, etc.).
Electricity mix: Around 68% of electricity from Swiss sockets came from renewable energies in 2017: Around 60% came from hydropower and around 8% from photovoltaics, wind, small-scale hydropower and biomass. Over 15% of electricity came from nuclear energy and about one percent from waste and fossil fuels. The origin and composition of over 16% of the electricity supplied cannot be verified. This share of electricity is called grey energy.
Electricity consumption: Consumption and production in Switzerland are roughly balanced. In 2018, 57.6 TWh of electricity was consumed, 1.4% less than in the previous year. Despite economic and population growth, electricity consumption in Switzerland has fallen slightly over the past 10 years, as the Federal Council has stipulated in its Energy Strategy. According to the Energy Strategy 2050, total energy consumption (fossil fuels, gas, electricity) must fall by 43 % by 2035.
Electricity consumption per household: An average Swiss four-person household consumes about 4500 to 5000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year (including electric hot water preparation).
Electricity imports/exports: Over the year as a whole, Switzerland usually produces enough electricity to cover domestic consumption and can therefore export electricity. However, electricity production is particularly high in the summer, whereas in the winter Switzerland is dependent on imports: The last time Switzerland was able to cover its own electricity requirements in winter was in 2002/03. Since then, it has been heavily dependent on imports at this time of year. What's more: In 2017, Switzerland was a net importer for the first time throughout the year.
Electricity utilities: The electricity supply to Swiss end customers is ensured by some 630 electricity supply companies. Many of the municipal utilities are also responsible for supplying their customers with water and gas. However, 70 % of these are pure distribution companies that transport electricity to customers via their networks but do not operate any power plants and therefore do not produce electricity.
Ownership: Almost 90% of the Swiss electricity utilities are owned by the public sector, i.e. cantons and municipalities, around 8% are privately owned by Swiss investors and 2% by foreign investors.
Electricity prices: There are major differences in the tariffs for universal service in Switzerland. For example, households pay 16 centimes per kilowatt hour to the cheapest grid operators and up to 23 centimes per kilowatt hour to the most expensive. This corresponds to a difference of 47%. The areas with the lowest tariffs are in northeastern Switzerland, while western Switzerland and the Canton of Berne are among the more expensive regions.
How the electricity price is formed: The electricity price paid by Swiss households consists of three components. These are the grid costs (delivery from the power plant to the customer), the production costs and the taxes (water rate, compensatory feed-in remuneration - KEV, etc.). They each amount to approximately one third of the final price for the consumer.
Electricity grid: The Swiss electricity grid is huge. It consists of 250,000 kilometres of lines - and thus extends around the world more than 6 times. The Swiss electricity grid is divided into seven grid levels. These include extra-high voltage (380 kV/220 kV), high voltage (36 to 150 kV), medium voltage (1 kV to 36 kV) and the low voltage level (up to 1 kV). The grid levels also include three transformation stages: In so-called substations/transformer stations, the voltage is converted from one level to another.
Electricity market: There are around 5.1 million electricity customers in Switzerland. Since 2009, the electricity market has been partially liberalised. Large electricity consumers (consumption of over 100,000 kWh) are free to choose their electricity supplier. That is around 32,500 companies, which corresponds to 0.8% of all end customers. All other consumers are only allowed to purchase their electricity from the local electricity supplier.
Electricity market liberalisation: In the Federal Council's view, the electricity market in Switzerland should be fully liberalised within the framework of the new Electricity Supply Act. It is still unclear how and when this will be done in detail. A discussion paper on this subject is expected to be available as of March 2020. However, complete market liberalisation is politically controversial - it is expected that Swiss voters will make the final decision this issue in a referendum. Axpo welcomes the Federal Council's efforts for full electricity market liberalisation in Switzerland and in order to create planning security. Only liberalised market will lead to competition, innovation and integration into the European internal electricity market. Liberalisation will also eliminate market distortions on the consumer and producer side.
Security of supply: According to its calculations, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy assumes that security of electricity supply in Switzerland is ensured until 2025. Other federal authorities, such as the Federal Electricity Commission (Elcom), are more skeptical. Elcom says that Switzerland is heading toward an increasing electricity shortage in winter. What's more: Increasing dependence on imports is a real problem. The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) goes even further. In a study it points out that if Switzerland relies entirely on heat pumps and electromobility - without further measures - there is a risk of a gigantic electricity deficit in winter.
Energy Strategy 2050: The Energy Act and the Energy Strategy 2050 adopted by Swiss voters in May 2017 are intended to decrease energy consumption and increase energy efficiency. Renewable energies will be subsidised and the construction of new nuclear power plants prohibited. Existing Swiss nuclear power plants can continue to oeprate as long as they are safe (and from the perspective of power producers) economical. However, the Energy Strategy 2050 plans are very ambitious. From today's perspective, Axpo considers the ES 2050 as too optimistic in terms of production prognoses, consumption estimates and the assumptions concerning the possible import of power from abroad. As a result, a realistic review of the ES 2050 is absolutely essential. The SFOE has already introduced the initial measures and is working on new models for an energy strategy up until the year 2060.
Electricity hub: Switzerland is Europe's electricity hub. The country counts 41 cross-border connections to neighbouring countries. In addition to its central location, it also owes its important role to its hydropower, which is available in seconds. Today, around 10% of the electricity exchanged between the 34 countries in Europe flows through Switzerland.
Electricity yesterday and today: In Switzerland, electricity was generated for the first time in the 19th century in St. Moritz by means of hydropower. Since then, Switzerland has achieved numerous pioneering achievements, such as the construction of the world's highest gravity dam. With a height of 285 metres, the Grand Dixence Wall in Valais is only 39 metres smaller than the Eiffel Tower. At 1,054 metres, the Muttsee reservoir has the longest dam in Switzerland. It is located at nearly 2500 metres above sea level and is therefore the highest dam in Europe. The dam is part of the Axpo state-of-the-art Limmern pumped storage plant (LPSP) with a total installed capacity of 1520 MW.
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Axpo international: Electricity trading and renewables
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