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Swiss vote for nuclear exit – and several incentives for geothermal development

Scherzligen, Thun, Canton of Berne (Source: flickr/ Alex Sinclair, creative commons)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 22 May 2017

New legislation on a phase-out of nuclear power in Switzerland pushes renewable energy development and the new rules include strong incentives for the development of geothermal projects in the country.

The Swiss government decided to stepwise phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima event in 2011. Both Swiss chambers adopted the new energy law in September 2016. The strategy focuses on the reduction of the energy consumption, the enhancement of the energy efficiency and the increased deployment of renewable energies to substitute nuclear power. The Swiss population voted with a majority of 58.2 percent in favour of the new energy strategy in a referendum on 21 May 2017. The energy strategy targets e.g. at 4’400 GWh/yr of geothermal power produced in 2050.

The geothermal measures include:

National Geothermal Guarantee Scheme (until 2031)

The existing national guarantee scheme for geothermal power projects increases from 50 to 60 percent of total sunk subsurface development costs.

Exploration Support Scheme:

Prospecting and exploration activities for geothermal power projects may be supported by a financial contribution of up to 60 percent of the costs.

The guarantee and the exploration support scheme are both funded via a max. 0.1 Rappen (about the same in US Cent) per kWh from voltage grid surcharge. The annual Swiss electricity consumption of about 60 TWh results in a fund of about 60 Million CHF per year. For all measures a cap of max. 2.3 Rappen per kWh is defined. Both support schemes are available until 2031.

Feed-in tariffs

The new measures include a technology feed-in bonus for power produced by enhanced/engineered geothermal systems (EGS). The feed-in tariff varies depending on the installed capacity of the power plant.

Installed Capacity

Hydrothermal (CHF / MWh)

EGS (CHF / MWh)

smaller or equal to 5 MW

400

475

smaller or equal to  10 MW

360

435

smaller or equal to 20 MW

280

355

larger than 20 MW

227

302

[Note: Swiss Franc (CHF) is roughly at par with the U.S. dollar, so the FIT price ranges from around $0.23/ kWh for projects larger than 20 MW to around $0.480/ kWh for EGS projects.]

Support scheme for direct use geothermal energy

To boost the deployment of geothermal direct use in order to reduce CO2 emissions, max. CHF 30 Million per year from CO2-levy on heating oil will be available in future.

Geothermal now in the “national interest”

Geothermal energy is now of national interest. This will also accelerate planning and permitting of new geothermal projects.

Source: Peter Meier, Geo-Energie Suisse