07.12.2022 | Improved framework paves the way for solar offensive
Axpo is pressing ahead with expansion in renewable energy at a brisk pace. Having already added a lot of solar and wind power capacity outside Switzerland, and with a number of further projects at the planning stage, it also stepped up its ambition for Switzerland in November 2022, thanks in part to an improved legislative framework.
Axpo is the largest producer of renewable energy in Switzerland and intends to build further on its leading role in the transition to a CO2-free future. The war in Ukraine has made expansion in renewable energies even more important, and the progress Axpo is driving in alternative electricity generation and storage methods will make both Switzerland and Europe more independent in terms of energy supply going forward.
In international photovoltaics (PV), Axpo’s ambition is to add 10 GW of capacity between 2020 and 2030, focusing mainly on the development and construction of plants that it will later sell or in which it will retain only a minority stake (this is referred to as “asset light” strategy). Axpo is already a leading developer and constructor of solar plants in France.
Wind power is also vital to the shift away from fossil fuels as it generates around two thirds of its energy in the winter half of the year. Axpo wants to build onshore wind farms with a total output of 3 GW by 2030. Most of these will be sold on completion, but some will remain under Axpo’s ownership. As part of this strategy, Axpo also made a successful sale in the reporting period of a French wind farm portfolio comprising 24 state-of-the-art turbines with a total capacity of 65.5 MW.
A positive change occurred in Switzerland at the end of the reporting period. The Swiss Parliament laid the foundations for faster growth in the construction of photovoltaic (PV) facilities in open spaces with high winter output during its 2022 autumn session by passing amendments to the Energy Act concerning urgent measures to secure the supply of electricity in winter. Axpo expressly welcomes this development, which has allowed it to speed up its planned PV expansion and announce a Swiss solar offensive in November.
Specifically, Axpo now intends to build PV plants with a total output of 1.2 GW by 2030, six times the previous target of 200 MW. The offensive comprises Alpine solar plants attached to infrastructure and in open spaces as well as urban projects such as solar panels installed on the roofs of industrial and residential buildings and other spaces. Axpo has already unveiled its first plan for an Alpine solar plant, to be constructed on the Lai da Nalps reservoir in the Canton of Graubünden.
When it comes to Alpine PV plants, Axpo can call on its experience with its project on the Muttsee dam, Switzerland’s largest Alpine solar facility, which began operating at partial capacity in October 2021 and was completed in August 2022. Alpine solar plants above the fog line produce around three times as much electricity as urban plants during the winter. This electricity is particularly valuable in view of the growing winter shortfall. Initial experience with the Muttsee project shows that expectations with regard to winter production are being met.
Turning Axpo’s PV ambition into reality is primarily the responsibility of its subsidiary CKW, which is already driving the energy transition by installing two new building-mounted solar facilities every day. CKW can call on the extensive experience and economies of scale offered by the Solar division, which has been successfully constructing large PV plants internationally for many years. Axpo is ideally equipped for the future with know-how along the entire value chain from project development to electricity trading.
The solar offensive will make a valuable contribution to the sustainable and secure supply of electricity, especially in winter. Given the need to increase annual production in Switzerland by around 50 TWh by 2050, however, this offensive is just one of many pieces in the puzzle. Long-term improvements in the legislative framework are required to achieve the transition while maintaining energy supply security. Lengthy approval processes are a particularly large obstacle. Axpo will continue to play its part in safeguarding the energy supply and will employ its international expertise constructively in the political process.