The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Residential Swiss solar plan: Not cost-effective

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 2 February 2023
Installing solar panels on the rooftops of local homes and businesses would only be effective in less than half of the proposed locations, study reveals. Back to the drawing board.
Residential Swiss solar plan: Not cost-effective

Costs vary wildly from city to city, making the proposal effective in only 49% of the locations

A renewable energy plan to install rooftop solar panels in Swiss cities will likely only be cost effective less than half of the locations, according to a study commissioned by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and completed by ETH Zurich.

More on the plan

The effectiveness of the proposed plan depends heavily on how much power grid operators pay for the energy the panels generate and the current price of electricity, as well as the local tax rate. A solar panel project is considered beneficial if the profits exceed 3% over a 30-year timespan. And that is after taking into account the costs associated with installation and maintenance.   Solar panels would likely reach that 3% cost-effective rate in nearly 50% of the 2,067 Swiss cities and communities analyzed in the study. There were wide disparities in cost-effectiveness across the locations, note the researchers.   “The less the local power grid operator pays for the solar power fed into the grid and the more it charges for the power it provides, the more likely homeowners are to match the size of their solar installation to their own usage. In some cases, this means that they build smaller systems and produce less electricity than they might actually have room for,” writes study co-author and ETH professor Tobias Schmidt.   “Switzerland is like a patchwork quilt in this regard. It’s unfair and incomprehensible that the profitability of solar installations varies so widely from region to region,” writes Schmidt.

Residential Swiss solar plan: Not cost-effective

Schwarz says solar could be used effectively, but not in the way the government is currently proposing.

Where to go from here?

Solar has been the cornerstone of many proposed plans for Switzerland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 and stabilize its energy supply. The former federal head of Switzerland’s energy supply Georg Schwarz agrees that the rooftop residential plan will leave a shortfall.   “In terms of security of supply, it is very risky to become so dependent on foreign countries, even if we can avoid damaging our landscape as a result,” Schwarz says. He says his first choice is nuclear power; and his second is a combination of hydropower, wind power and solar panels on the Alps.   Some groups are against putting solar panels on the Alps, citing interference with wildlife. Yet another group, Stop Blackouts, is pushing for Switzerland to reconsider nuclear power as the answer. And just last week, the Bern Airport announced a 30 million CHF plan to open the country’s largest solar farm on its property. Stay tuned.   This article may be freely shared and re-printed, provided that it prominently links back to the original article.

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