How does EU policy influence our energy strategy?
The European Union (EU) has a major influence on Switzerland, particularly in the areas of transport, electricity and energy efficiency. Whether it likes it or not, Switzerland must also take account of European energy and climate policy within the framework of its own energy strategy.
Three elements of EU policy have a particular influence on our energy strategy: the objectives of reducing greenhouse gases, developing renewable energies and increasing energy efficiency.
Market prices for electricity are currently very low in Europe. This situation limits our options for phasing out nuclear power, as no alternative is competitive in such market conditions. In particular, building gas-fired power plants or new hydroelectric facilities is currently proving economically impossible.
However, the EU’s objectives in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions have a decisive impact on the market price of electricity. Indeed, the more ambitious its climate targets are, the higher the market prices of CO2 emissions will be. As a result, electricity prices will rise, since a significant share of European electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, which are high emitters of CO2 [→ Q83].
The EU has a binding target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 and by 40% by 2030, compared to 1990. This ambitious EU target is not only good news for the climate, but also for the competitiveness of Swiss hydropower plants! [→ Q70]
The EU has also decided to meet at least 20% of its final energy consumption with renewable energies by 2020 (half of which are in the transport sector), and 32% by 2030. A roadmap even mentions 55% by 2050. In order to achieve this target, electricity from renewable sources is currently heavily subsidised by the EU member states (as is the case in Switzerland, incidentally). Again, this has a strong influence on European electricity market prices, and therefore on our strategic options. At the same time, this massive support for intermittent renewable electricity (wind and solar) offers interesting economic opportunities for Switzerland: on the one hand, Switzerland benefits from the lower costs of these technologies caused by their boom in Europe (thanks to Germany in particular, photovoltaics is so cheap today); on the other hand, Switzerland could economically develop its storage capacities thanks to its pumped storage facilities and alpine storage lakes. Provided that Europe agrees to integrate Switzerland into its electricity grid… [→ Q71]
The EU’s influence is also evident in the field of transport. It would be illusory for Switzerland to seek to develop electric mobility on a large scale without Europe doing the same. In the absence of a European mass market, electric vehicles would probably not be available in Switzerland or would at best remain very expensive to purchase, and would be difficult to drive outside our borders due to the lack of infrastructure for recharging batteries. As far as fuels are concerned, it is once again Europe that is dictating the market. In order to reach its target of 10% renewable in transport by 2020, the EU is relying mainly on biofuels. At the pump in Europe, there are already 5 to 10% biofuels blended with standard fuels, a figure that could rise sharply by 2025. However, this percentage is very different from one member country to the next. In 2017, only two countries (Sweden and Finland) had exceeded the 10% target. As a result, it will be increasingly difficult for Switzerland to obtain supplies of pure traditional fuels (petrol, diesel), regardless of whether or not it wants to support biofuels.
Finally, in the area of energy efficiency, the equipment (household appliances, electronics, lamps, vehicles, boilers, smart grid elements, etc.) that can be sold in Switzerland will essentially be those available on the European market, which are directly dependent on the standards and regulations defined by the European Union. It is not surprising, therefore, that Switzerland almost systematically aligns itself with these standards.
Given that the energy and energy technology markets are largely harmonised at the European level, and the transmission and distribution networks are largely interconnected throughout the continent, it is difficult for Switzerland to go it alone in this area (as in others). Switzerland must therefore take into account the framework conditions set by the European Union in order to ensure that its energy policy choices are appropriate and sustainable.
- European Commission (2019)
- European Commission (2019). The 2020 climate and energy package. [Online]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/strategies/2020_en.
- European Commission (2019)
- European Commission (2019). COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONSThe European Green Deal.
- European Commission (2014)
- European Commission (2014). EU gears up for 2030 with more emissions reductions (Press release).
- Swiss ENERGYScope (2019)
- Swiss ENERGYScope (2019). Swiss-energyscope. [Online]. Available at: https://www.energyscope.ch/.