Switzerland falling further behind rest of Europe in producing green energy

Switzerland falling further behind rest of Europe in producing green energy

New data from the Swiss Energy Foundation (SES) has revealed that Switzerland has fallen behind most other European countries when it comes to using solar and wind power. Despite some progress, still only less than 10 percent of the country's energy is produced via the two renewable sources.

Switzerland failing to take advantage of wind and solar power

While Switzerland already produces more than half of its electricity via hydroelectric power from lakes, rivers and dams, it has been comparatively slow to embrace wind and solar power, according to the study. This is despite the fact that wind and solar power have the "greatest" potential for expansion "and their costs are the lowest” out of all renewable energy sources, the report noted.

As of 2024, the SES found that Switzerland produces 558 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per person from solar power, and just 19 kWh per person from wind. With a total of 577 kWh per person, this places the country 22nd of the 28 European nations analysed, only ahead of Malta, Romania, Slovenia, Czechia, Latvia and Slovakia.

The top of the list was occupied by Denmark, where 3.861 kWh of power is produced by wind and solar power per person. 70 percent of Denmark's energy is produced via the two sources, compared to just 8,9 percent in Switzerland. 

Wind power expansion stagnates in Switzerland

The report explained that while Swiss solar power production has increased in line with the European average, wind power development has stagnated in the last decade. For example, despite starting at the same level of production in 2010, wind power production per capita in Austria today is 50 times higher than in Switzerland. “Switzerland has a lot of catching up to do,” SBS noted.

In all, the report argued that the Swiss government has been “very passive” in trying to get wind and solar power up and running. They added that despite a recent push to reform, the “financial and planning risks” involved in investing in the industry are simply too great at the moment.

Swiss citizens to vote on new energy act in June 2024

Therefore, the SES called on Swiss citizens to vote in favour of the new energy reform act on June 9. As part of the plan, firms that invest in wind and solar power plants would be given extra financial security and easier planning permission, and targets for renewable energy production would be increased.

In justifying the change, the government argued that while just 1,9 percent of domestic power production in Switzerland comes from fossil fuels, around 70 percent of the energy used in the country is imported, with the majority coming from non-renewable sources. In addition, the prospect of energy shortages following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 convinced many within parliament that the country needed to expand domestic energy production to secure supplies.

The SES said that if the reform passed, Switzerland would produce more wind and solar power per person by 2035 than Denmark does today. The issue has also been given extra precedence after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Swiss government’s climate inaction constitutes a violation of human rights - though the Council of States recently called for the ruling to be ignored.

What's more, the change to the energy law does have opponents, with the committee against the proposal arguing that the changes to planning permission deny cantons and local communities a say in major energy projects. They also worried that the new rules would make “it easier to clear forests and allow the defacement of landscapes and the destruction of protected biotopes.”

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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