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Switzerland drags feet over renewables

Switzerland produces less solar and wind energy per inhabitant – only 170 kilowatt hours – than most other European countries, or enough energy for a refrigerator for a year, a new study reveals.

Switzerland is ranked 25th out of 29 countries in a comparative European study by the Swiss Energy Foundation, published on Tuesday.

Only Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and Latvia produce less wind and solar energy per inhabitant than Switzerland. Denmark (2,619 Kwh per inhabitant), Sweden (1,704 Kwh) and Germany (1,556 Kwh) topped the table.

Switzerland’s poor ranking comes despite an increase in renewable energy output in the small alpine state – 15 times more solar energy per inhabitant in the past five years and three times more wind energy.

According to the Swiss Energy Foundation, financial investment is holding the Swiss back.

“There is simply not enough money to properly promote solar or wind energies,” said project manager Myriam Planzer.

She said some 37,000 projects were still waiting for funding from the so-called ‘feed-in remuneration’ – an instrument developed by the federal authorities to promote the production of renewable energies. This special tariff covers the difference between the production cost and the market price, and guarantees producers of electricity from renewable sources a price that corresponds to their production costs.

Planzer said if the 37,000 projects were carried out Switzerland would climb up the table to 12th position.

The new study does not include mention of hydropower, which accounts for about 60% of Swiss domestic production. Hydropower, produced by Switzerland’s numerous mountain dams, would clearly have improved Switzerland’s ranking, but there was a conscious decision not to include it in the study.

“The real potential of additional capacity comes from solar and wind energies. It’s estimated that Swiss hydropower can only be expanded by five per cent,” said Planzer.