31.10.2019 | SP National Councilman Roger Nordmann a guest at Axpo

"It won't happen without investments"

The expansion of photovoltaics in Switzerland has potential. National Councilman Roger Nordmann and Axpo representatives agree on this point. However, there are a number of challenges to master. Those challenges were discussed yesterday at Axpo. The point of departure was Nordmann's latest book «Sonne für den Klimaschutz: Ein Solarplan für die Schweiz» (Sun for climate protection: Solar plan for Switzerland).

Photovoltaics is not new territory for Axpo: With the French subsidiary, Urbasolar, Axpo has a great deal of solar energy know-how at its disposal along the entire value chain. In Switzerland, the subsidiary CKW is firmly rooted in the solar business. "We would like to do more in the solar area in Switzerland," stressed Christoph Sutter, Head of the New Energies division, yesterday at the Axpo management event with some 100 Axpo managers in attendance. Axpo sees various business fields in solar, but only if the framework conditions are right. Hence, Axpo is most willing to take up the dialogue with policy makers.  

Solar plan for Switzerland

The discussion partner on the panel was SP National Councilman Roger Nordmann. He presented his solar plan and explained how he intends to realise an expansion of solar capacities in Switzerland from today 2 to 50 GW in the upcoming years. Nordmann estimates that Switzerland will need an additional 40 to 45 TWh of electricity after the nuclear phase-out and owing to the new climate goals based on the de-carbonisation of transport and households. He wants to fill this gap with solar power.  

But, solar power is only generated when the sun is shining. Here there some important factors to observe around the expansion of PV in Switzerland: In order to solve the problem of summer surplus production and the winter shortages – since more power is used during these months – Roger Nordmann wants to shift summer power production to the winter by means of peak shaving (see article on the right). When electricity production exceeds consumption in the summer, this power would be used to fill storage systems, instead of for solar harvesting, transport and other storage systems.  

Winter power is crucial

Thanks to peak shaving, power can be redistributed until nearly the end of November. However, Nordmann sees the true challenge in having enough power for the remaining winter months. There is still no solution for long-term storage. In addition to raising existing dams, he proposes power-to-gas and seasonal thermal storage, as well as combined cycle gas-fired and steam power plants. At first glance, this seems surprising because in principle the President of Swissolar is for de-carbonisation. However, Nordmann is striving for 100-per cent domestic supply in Switzerland throughout the entire year. To achieve this, Switzerland would need several solutions of its own to fill the power gap during the winter months.  

Framework conditions

Alena Weibel, Head of Public Affairs, emphasised that Axpo wants to do more in the area of renewables in Switzerland, "but we can only expand in areas that are profitable for us." This is precisely the important point: The various permit processes, applications, planning specifications, inspection confirmations, etc. are currently too complicated and strongly regulated. "In particular, the framework conditions must be adapted for PV large-scale plants with no own consumption," stipulates Alena Weibel. Roger Nordmann agrees: "PV plants can only thrive on the market if investments can be recouped." There is an urgent need for an investment framework that creates incentives for the expansion of solar plants in Switzerland.

Axpo and SP member Nordmann have a great deal in common, not just the colour red: Roger Nordmann with the Chairman & CEO ad interim Thomas Sieber

The panel participants agree: In the upcoming years. Switzerland needs enormous growth in the expansion of PV. "The potential is huge and we must start with expansion today," emphasised Andy Heiz, Deputy CEO & Head of the Production and Grids division. Investments must be made and the framework conditions adapted. First and foremost this lies in the hands of policy makers. Axpo is available for a dialogue and an exchange.

About Roger Nordmann

Roger Nordmann, born in 1973 in Lausanne, is the Federal Assembly Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, a member of the National Council Commission for the Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy UREK. He studied political science and economics. Nordmann is recognised as an expert for energy and climate issues, advocates an effective climate policy on national and international levels, and is the President of Swissolar, the Swiss trade association for solar energy.

With his book "Sonne für den Klimaschutz – Ein Solarplan für die Schweiz" he calls for a concrete energy strategy based on state-of-the-art technology.


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