June 11, 2024

Swiss Welcomes New Solar PV Installation Law

Swiss voters approved a new electricity law promoting renewable energy through mandatory photovoltaic systems on large buildings and incentives for PV development. The law also encourages electricity communities and collective self-consumption while mandating solar installations on new buildings over 300 m².

Why Solar?

Switzerland faces an electricity shortage, especially during peak winter demand, leading to reliance on imported electricity, often generated by polluting fuels. This dependency hampers Switzerland's climate efforts and its energy independence. To address this, the government aims to incentivize the installation of renewable energy sources like hydro, solar, wind, and biomass.

The government strongly supports its plan. In parliament, the plan was approved by a vote of 177 to 19, and in the Council of States, Switzerland's upper house, the vote was unanimously 44 to 0 in favor.

Advocating for its plan to be approved in September 2023, the government argues that legal changes are needed to expedite the deployment of renewable energy sources such as hydro, solar, wind, and biomass. The plan aims to boost solar power production by installing panels on buildings, relaxing stringent planning conditions for wind power and large solar plants, and easing planning rules for 16 hydropower plants. Additionally, it includes public funding to stimulate investment in renewable electricity production.

Law Backed by Referendum

Through a national referendum on Monday, Swiss citizens also backed the electricity regulation which is aimed at boosting renewable energy. It mandates photovoltaic systems on sizable structures, promotes electricity communities, and fosters collective self-consumption.

Roughly 68.72% of Swiss voters supported this law, which introduces incentives for PV development. Additionally, new buildings exceeding 300 m² must integrate solar installations on roofs or facades, with the option for cantons to extend this requirement to smaller buildings.

Official results revealed that nearly 69 percent of Swiss voters supported the law on "a secure electricity supply based on renewable energies," aligning with polling trends released prior to the nationwide referendum.

The Alliance For a Safe and Affordable Electricity Supply, which supported the law, stated that the Swiss people have made a significant decision regarding the nation's electricity supply.

The Electricity Act

The Electricity Act lays the groundwork for expanding solar electricity production, focusing on efficient installations primarily on buildings and infrastructure, which will make solar energy a significant contributor to Switzerland's energy mix alongside hydroelectric power, according to a statement from the Swissolar association.

“The Electricity Act sets out the framework for the continuous increase of solar electricity production, focusing especially on buildings and infrastructure and providing high winter efficiency through installations. Solar energy will become the second pillar of Swiss energy supply, along with hydroelectric energy,” According to a press statement from the Swissolar Association.

Less than two months ago, Switzerland was the first country to be criticized by an international court for insufficient action against climate change, according to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

1.5 GW of PV Systems Installed in 2023

In 2023, hydropower, making up 56% of Switzerland's electricity mix, significantly reduced the nation's carbon footprint. This year, solar energy is expected to contribute 6 TWh, roughly 10% of total consumption.

By 2035, the goal is for renewable sources to supply 35 TWh annually, predominantly from solar power. Swissolar predicts that by 2050, photovoltaic systems will generate 45 TWh yearly, covering half of Switzerland's electricity needs.

The new legislation also encourages local energy communities and expands self-consumption groups, mandating distribution network operators to prioritize selling electricity from local renewables. Swissolar reports over 1.5 GW of PV systems were installed in Switzerland in 2023.

In conclusion, the new electricity law approved by nearly 69 percent of Swiss voters represents a major step towards enhancing renewable energy infrastructure and reducing dependence on imported, polluting energy sources. With solar energy poised to become a key part of Switzerland's energy mix alongside hydropower, the nation aims to significantly boost its renewable energy output by 2035, advancing its goals for energy independence and climate change mitigation.

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