Switzerland’s Energy Conundrum

The population of the Swiss Confederation (Switzerland) is approximately 8.68 million people[1]. In 2018, 100% of the people in this Western European country had access to electricity[2].

In 2018, Switzerland’s economy was ranked 20th in the world in gross domestic product (GDP)[3]. The country’s economy is dependent on banking, tourism, and the export of pharmaceuticals, gemstones, machinery, computers, chemicals, watches, optical equipment, and perfumes.

In 2016, Switzerland signed the Paris Climate Agreement, committing to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 compared to 1990 levels[4]. In 2017, Switzerland approved the Federal Energy Act, which included plans to close all nuclear power plants by 2029.

In 2017, Switzerland’s utilities used renewable energy (65%), nuclear power (34%), and natural gas (1%) to generate electricity in the country[5]. Hydropower is the dominant source of renewable energy in Switzerland.

Switzerland’s total installed photovoltaic capacity is projected to reach 2,870 MW by year-end 2020, according to the country’s solar energy association, Swissolar. The use of solar energy to generate electricity in Switzerland has increased from less than 1% in 2016 to 4.7% in 2020.

Switzerland is now facing an energy conundrum. How will the country replace 34% of the country’s power, when the last nuclear power plant closes in 2029?

Nuclear power generates zero greenhouse gas emissions. Will Switzerland be able to replace the power from the nuclear power plants with renewable energy over the next nine years? The harsh reality is Switzerland will almost certainly have to increase the use of natural gas and coal to keep the country running.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”


[1] Switzerland Population (2020) –  November 2, 2020 www.worldometers.info

[2] Switzerland  – The World Bank Group

[3] Gross Domestic Product 2019 – World Bank DataBank

[4] Carbon Brief – “2015: Tracking Country Climate Pledges”

[5] International Energy Agency – World Energy Balances 2018

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