How will our future energy mix be different from today’s?
In 2050, our energy mix will be quite different from today’s; it will be much more diversified (due in particular to new renewable energies), it will no longer include nuclear power (at least not indigenous power), and it will depend much less on oil products. Two major uncertainties concern the role of natural gas and biofuels.
The first major change is that in any case Switzerland will seek to strongly develop renewable energies. As a result, our energy mix will diversify with the growing use of solar and wind power, environmental heat (heat pumps), biomass and, perhaps, deep geothermal energy. If we succeed in realising the potential of renewable energies, their share in the Swiss energy mix could increase from around 20% today to more than 66% in 2050 (provided that the potential of energy efficiency has also been used to reduce total energy demand).
The second significant change will be the planned phase-out of indigenous nuclear power. That said, depending on how much importance we choose to give to electricity imports, we may receive a more or less significant share of nuclear electricity, although this is of course completely inconsistent with our decision to give up our own nuclear power plants. The third significant change concerns the drastic reduction, or even near-total reduction by 2050, in the amount of fuel oil used for heating. The result will be a sharp decline in our dependence on petroleum products.
On the other hand, for transport and mobility, we are likely to continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels (petrol, diesel, kerosene). The reasons for this? The large size of our vehicle fleet (around 4 million) and its relatively slow renewal rate (the average life of cars is around 12 years). To some extent, electric vehicles and gas cars could make a difference, but their rate of public adoption remains uncertain in the medium term.
Another major uncertainty in the transport sector is the share of biofuels blended with petrol, diesel and kerosene in 2050. In principle, so-called “2nd and 3rd generation” biofuels will increase in the coming years. These biofuels, produced from biomass from non-food plants (wood, algae, grasses, etc.), should in principle have much lower social and environmental impacts than 1st generation biofuels. If this promise of “sustainability” comes true, Switzerland could decide to import these new biofuels on a massive scale, thereby reducing its consumption of fossil fuels [→ Q56].
The final, and probably the most important, uncertainty about our future energy mix concerns the role of natural gas. We know that the use of gas for heating is expected to increase its relative share as a substitute for fuel oil. On the other hand, the role that gas could play in the electricity and mobility sectors remains more difficult to predict. If Switzerland were to opt for domestic electricity production from natural gas [→ Q85] and [→ Q89], and if it were also to decide to massively support gas-powered vehicles [→ Q34], the result would be an enormous increase in our dependence on this fossil energy source. In such a scenario, the share of natural gas in our energy mix could, in theory, rise from 12% today to more than 40% in 2050. Such dependence on natural gas is probably not desirable, both for reasons of excessive greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions and for security of supply reasons, unless the deposits identified in Switzerland prove to be large and are actually exploited [→ Q25]. Conversely, we could also choose not to support this energy agent and drastically reduce our dependence on natural gas, from 12 to 14% today to 6 or 7% in 2050.
- Office fédéral de l'énergie (OFEN) (2018)
- Office fédéral de l'énergie (OFEN) (2018). Statistique suisse de l’électricité 2018. OFEN.
- Office fédéral de l'énergie (OFEN) (2019)
- Office fédéral de l'énergie (OFEN) (2019). Statistique globale de l’énergie 2018. OFEN.