Renewable energy and carbon capture

Renewable energy consumption, policy and general regulation

Give details of the production and consumption of renewable energy in your country. What is the policy on renewable energy? Describe any obligations on the state and private parties for renewable energy production or use. Describe the main provisions of any scheme for registration of renewable energy production and use and for trade of related accounting units or credits.

For an overview of production and consumption of renewable energy see question 17 with the corresponding table.

Until 2007, the Federal Council based its energy strategy on four pillars: energy efficiency, renewable energies, replacement and new construction of large-scale power plants for electricity production (including nuclear power plants), and foreign energy policy. Following the Fukushima disaster, the Federal Council and Parliament decided to phase out nuclear energy in Switzerland. This decision, together with other far-reaching changes in the international energy environment, necessitates a reorganisation of the Swiss energy system. To this end, the Federal Council has drawn up the Energy Strategy 2050. It follows the Energy Strategy 2007 and sets new objectives. What is fundamentally new is that the existing five nuclear power plants are to be decommissioned at the end of their safety-related operating period and not replaced. Furthermore, energy efficiency is to be increased and renewable energy sources such as solar energy expanded (the ‘first package of measures’, for more details see questions 3, 8 and 27).

Pursuant to the EA, the production of electricity from renewable energy sources other than hydropower shall aim at an expansion with an average domestic production of at least 4,400GWh in 2020 and at least 11,400GWh in 2035. The production of electricity from hydropower shall aim at an expansion with an average domestic production of at least 37,400GWh in 2035. The use of renewable energies and their expansion is granted the status of a national interest. The average energy consumption per person and year shall be reduced by 16 per cent by 2020 and by 43 per cent by 2035 compared to 2000 levels. Average electricity consumption per person per year should be reduced by 3 per cent by 2020 and by 13 per cent by 2035 compared to 2000.

As the Swiss regime is based on incentivised voluntary measures with regard to renewable energy, there are only few obligations on state or private parties to produce or use renewable energy.

According to the CO2 Act and the EA, the cantons can define a maximum percentage of energy for heating and hot water that may originate from non-renewable sources for new buildings.

Electricity supply companies are obliged to inform end-users of the percentage of the provided electricity from renewable and non-renewable sources. The Ordinance of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) governing the certification of production method and origin of electricity defines clear legal and non-discriminatory requirements governing the certification of origin of electricity in Switzerland which are in line with the relevant EU regulations. These requirements facilitate international trading in electricity produced from renewable energy sources, and ensure that the electricity consumed by end-users can be traced back to its origin.

Pursuant to article 15 EA, grid operators are obliged to accept the electricity from renewable energy sources they are offered within their grid area and pay appropriate compensation for it. Moreover, until 2022 producers of renewable energy are guaranteed a price corresponding to their production costs (feed-in remuneration at cost). From then on, no new producers will be included in the promotion system.

In Switzerland, eco-friendly electricity may be traded at electricity exchanges such as the Ökostrombörse Schweiz, where the producers sell the ecological added value of green electricity. Companies or private individuals may buy this electricity.

Wind energy

Describe, in general terms, any regulation of wind energy.

According to article 9 EO, new wind turbines or wind farms are of national interest if they have an average expected annual production of at least 20 GWh. This makes it more difficult to object against power plants by referring to nature and heritage protection.

In 2015, a total of 34 large Swiss wind turbines produced around 100GWh of wind power. This covered the electricity consumption of around 28,000 households. By 2020, wind turbines are expected to produce around 600GWh of electricity per year. By 2050 it should be 4,000GWh.

Like all buildings in Switzerland, the planning and construction of wind turbines is subject to a complex approval process. The most important steps are:

  • The Confederation defines the framework conditions and makes recommendations for planning (wind energy concept) in accordance with article 13 Spatial Planning Act.
  • Each canton issues its own regulations and laws for the planning and construction of wind farms. The cantons decide in which areas these plants may be built and where they may not. This is done in the structural planning.
  • The municipality or region where the wind turbine shall be placed is responsible for land use planning and the building permit. It stipulates the detailed requirements and determines whether a plant can be built.

Large wind turbines (usually of a total height of 30 metres or more) are subject to a statutory planning obligation. The federal government has published comprehensive recommendations in the form of the wind energy concept. To obtain a permit, an environmental impact assessment is required, including noise generation and nature and species protection.

The federal government promotes electricity generation from renewable energies and the operators of new installations producing electricity from wind energy may profit from the feed-in remuneration at cost (see question 19).

Solar energy

Describe, in general terms, any regulation of solar energy.

Generally, a building permit governed by cantonal law has to be obtained for the installation of a solar panel. The Spatial Planning Act (SPA) regulates the permission of solar installations in building and agricultural zones. Pursuant to article 18a SPA, for solar installations that are carefully integrated into in the roof or facade of a building, a notification to the building authorities instead of a building permit is sufficient.

The federal government promotes electricity generation from renewable energies and the operators of new installations producing electricity from photovoltaics of at least 100kWp may profit from the feed-in remuneration at cost (see question 19).

Hydropower, geothermal, wave and tidal energy

Describe, in general terms, any regulation of hydropower, geothermal, wave or tidal energy.

With its Energy Strategy 2050, the Swiss Confederation intends to increase the average annual production of electricity from hydropower to 38,600GWh by 2050 (and to 37,400GWh by 2035). To exploit the realisable potential, existing power plants are to be renovated and expanded while taking the related ecological requirements into account. The instruments to be used here include cost-covering remuneration for feed-in to the electricity grid for new hydropower plants with a capacity up to 10 megawatts as well as planned investment contributions for renewals and expansions of hydropower plants up to an output of 10MW. In terms of quantity, the goal is to increase the average estimated production level by at least 2,000GWh versus the level recorded in 2000 by renovating existing hydropower plants and constructing new ones.

The Swiss Federal Office of Energy deals with policy-related aspects of hydropower (promotion, strategies, perspectives, etc) as well as technical and safety aspects, while the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment is responsible for environmental aspects (residual water, protection of bodies of water, etc).

Article 2 of the Federal Act on the Exploitation of Hydropower (WRA) states that cantonal law determines which community (canton, district, municipality or corporation) is entitled to exploit the public waters for hydropower. The community may then make use of the hydropower itself or confer the right to third parties. For the installation of a hydropower plant the operator must acquire a permit and a concession from the relevant canton or municipality. In accordance with cantonal law, the awarding authority shall determine the services and conditions against which the licensee is granted the right of use, such as fees, water interest, water or electricity supply, duration of the licence, provisions on electricity prices, community participation in profits, reversion of the licence and repurchase. The procedure for the award by the cantonal authority is to be regulated by the cantons.

Currently, no electricity is being produced from geothermal sources in Switzerland. One of the main obstacles to the development of this technology is the fact that very little is known yet about the geological conditions of the deep underground. For this reason, geothermal energy projects are able to benefit from a guarantee financed from the network surcharge fund. Experts anticipate that, by 2030, around a dozen geothermal plants will be in operation, which will produce a combined total of 800 GWh of electricity. With regard to deep geothermal systems, there are several in operation that are used to supply heat, for example, for district heating grids. Various deep geothermal energy projects are currently being planned in Switzerland and are at various stages of progression.

The Confederation supports projects for the direct use of geothermal energy for heat supply in order to reduce CO2 emissions from buildings in the long term. The federal government promotes electricity generation from renewable energies, among others, the operators of new installations producing electricity from geothermal energy may profit from the feed-in remuneration at cost (see question 19).

As Switzerland has no direct access to the sea, there is no potential for wave and tidal energy.


Describe, in general terms, any regulation of production of energy based on waste.

Combustible waste from households and waste wood that is not suitable for recycling undergo thermal treatment in waste incineration plants or waste wood furnaces. The heat released in the process is used to generate electricity and heat buildings. Waste with a high calorific value and low level of pollutant contamination can be used in industrial plants (eg, cement plants) as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Pursuant to the Waste Ordinance (AWDO), proprietors of waste disposal facilities must operate the facilities in such a way as to avoid any harmful or nuisance effects on the environment. They must keep a record of the accepted quantities of the types of waste mentioned in Appendix 1 of the AWDO with details of their origin and of the residues and emissions arising in the facilities, and submit that record to the competent authority each year. The proprietors must ensure that they have the required specialist knowledge to operate the facilities properly and provide the authority on its request with the relevant proof of basic and continuing education and training. In case the waste disposal facilities dispose of more than 100 tonnes of waste each year, the proprietor must draw up operating regulations that, in particular, specify the requirements for the operation of the facilities and submit these regulations to the authority for feedback.

Pursuant to the AWDO, proprietors of waste disposal facilities must ensure that the energy content of the waste is exploited as far as possible in its disposal. The AWDO stipulates that, from 1 January 2026, proprietors of waste disposal facilities must operate their facilities in such a way that at least 55 per cent of the energy content of municipal waste and waste of comparable composition is used outside of the plant.

Biofuels and biomass

Describe, in general terms, any regulation of biofuel for transport uses and any regulation of biomass for generation of heat and power.

Fuels are generally subject to the mineral oil tax. Pursuant to the Mineral Oil Tax Act, biofuels (eg, biogas, bioethanol, biodiesel, vegetable and animal oils) may currently profit from full tax relief (depending on the product up to 75 cents per litre). Thereby environmentally compatible biofuels are fiscally promoted. The current tax relief provisions are limited until the entry into force of the revised CO2 Act, but at the latest until 31 December 2021. After that, the promotion is to be continued in an alternative form. The tax relief on biofuels is only granted if the domestic manufacturer or importer has provided evidence that the fuels comply with the ecological and social requirements.

According to the EA, grid operators are required to purchase and adequately remunerate electricity in their grid area. The federal government promotes electricity generation from renewable energies, among others, the operators of new installations producing electricity from biomass may profit from the feed-in remuneration at cost (see question 19). Moreover, the EA states that operators of biomass plants may obtain an investment contribution. The investment contribution for biomass installations is determined on a case-by-case basis and shall not exceed 20 per cent of the eligible investment costs.

Carbon capture and storage

Describe, in general terms, any policy on and regulation of carbon capture and storage.

At present, Switzerland does not govern any regulation of carbon capture and storage.

In May 2017, a number of scientists working in Switzerland addressed the public in a white paper, in which they argued that an open societal conversation on the role of negative emissions technologies (NETs) and solar radiation management (SRM) in achieving internationally agreed climate targets was overdue. Their analysis is based on the science underpinning the Paris Convention. Many questions, such as long-term safety, the tightness of these storage facilities, the costs, the infrastructure as well as the legal basis, still need to be clarified. In addition, there is likely to be a shortage of large enough reservoirs for the vast amounts of CO2 to be stored. Research projects are ongoing in Switzerland.

As there is a growing realisation that the Paris climate goals can no longer be met by emission reductions alone; in Switzerland a number of recent political initiatives have been submitted on federal and cantonal level. The Risk Dialogue Foundation conducted a stakeholder dialogue in 2018-2019 at the request of the FOEN. Switzerland is aiming to implement a regulation for carbon capture and storage but is currently still at the research stage.