Swiss nuclear phase-out could result in energy security concerns – IEA

The biggest energy challenge for Switzerland in the coming years will be to fill the gap created by the phase-out of its nuclear power stations, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Doing so while maintaining low carbon generation and high standards of security and supply means a ‘considerable’ energy sector transition, according to the
Energy Policies of IEA Countries: Switzerland 2018 Review.

The report says that, despite Switzerland’s
Energy Strategy 2050, which maps out a way for the country to achieve a low carbon economy with higher energy efficiency and renewable energy sources replacing nuclear energy, more ambitious reforms in the energy sector are needed to address questions around security of supply.

The IEA highlights Switzerland’s abundant pumped storage and reservoir capacities as ‘important resources’ for the country’s energy transition. It adds that further investment in hydropower should be encouraged through a reform of water royalty taxes, linked to electricity market prices.

However, the nation will still be increasingly reliant on imports from other European countries to meet electricity demand – particularly during the winter months, when low water levels affect production from hydro plants, says the IEA.

To meet its future energy needs successfully, Switzerland must fully harness these opportunities offered by its abundant hydro capacity, says Paul Simons, the IEA’s Deputy Executive Director.

Simons says: ‘Fully opening the Swiss electricity market and the complete integration into the European electricity market will be central to meeting Switzerland’s future energy needs.’

Switzerland has made major progress on energy efficiency in recent years, with the country’s energy consumption level remaining the same as it was in 2000, despite its population growing by 15% and its economy expanding by 30%.

However, the nation still has some way to go before it can successfully meet its emission reduction targets set for 2020. According to the IEA, additional climate policies are ‘urgently needed’ for the post-2020 period to help achieve the country’s binding 2030 goals.

The nation’s shifting energy demand from oil towards gas and renewables has been driven by its carbon dioxide levy on fossil fuels, alongside supporting investments in energy efficiency. 

But the levy – introduced in 2008 – does not go far enough, according to Simons.

‘The CO
2 levy represents a best policy practice example to inspire other countries’, he says, ‘but transport fuels are exempt from the CO2 levy and emissions in that sector are actually growing.’

To address this concern, the IEA encourages the Swiss government to more proactively develop a strategy for electric mobility to limit emissions from the transport sector.

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