Why are more than 35,000 solar photovoltaic projects blocked?

The overall financial envelope available to the renewable energy support programme is capped by technology (solar, wind, biomass, small hydro and geothermal). Photovoltaics has been a considerable success story, which has far exceeded the subsidy volumes available for this technology. This has resulted in a bottleneck in the allocation of subsidies, so that a long waiting list has had to be established.

The fund for the financing of the feed-in tariff (RPC) for renewable energies came into force in January 2009. However, producers were able to announce their installations from May 2008. Within a few weeks, the full amount available was committed. The rush to the PRC was due in particular to a favourable feed-in tariff offered at the time, and a popular enthusiasm for renewable energies. The list of projects submitted has continued to grow since then, as applications, particularly for photovoltaic installations, have continued to flow in faster than the available funds have grown [→ Q79]. In 2014, there are more than 30,000 photovoltaic projects awaiting funding, and this number will exceed 35,000 in 2016.

The increase of the annual quotas for photovoltaics from 0.05 to 0.15 GW for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 is expected to allow some 4,000 projects to be completed in each of these years. By 2020, small quotas will be released for projects announced before June 2012.

In addition, a new single (RU) and non-quota (and therefore no waiting list) compensation system was introduced in 2014 to complement the RPC. From now on, instead of the RPC, small photovoltaic installations (less than 10 kW power) will benefit from an immediate subsidy at the time of installation, up to an amount equivalent to one-third of the investment cost of a reference installation. Operators of installations between 10 kW and 30 kW have the choice between the RPC and the one-off payment. This should be sufficient to decide for individuals; however, politicians will have to remain vigilant in case this support proves insufficient, at the risk of breaking the growth dynamic of the market.

These measures will help to reduce the waiting list but will not be sufficient to eliminate it completely. In particular, an increase in quotas, or the abolition of the distribution of the RPC fund in different technologies, could also help to accelerate the development of solar energy, but with the risk that this will be to the detriment of other renewable energies.

From 2018 and the Energy Strategy 2050, photovoltaic installations of any size, not only those with less than 10 kW power, will be supported by the one-off payment system, which will cover up to a maximum of 30% of investment costs. Depending on the size of the facility, the subsidy processes are different and the waiting period is estimated at a maximum of 3 years.

All of these measures and reflections on the evolution of the support mechanism are essential in order to accelerate the implementation of new renewable energies. At the current rate of 150 MW of additional installed capacity per year, it will take 100 years to realise the photovoltaic potential in Switzerland, estimated at 15 GW [→ Q49], which will take us well beyond the end of nuclear power. We must therefore act more massively and more quickly if we want solar energy to play a leading role in our energy transition. Solar photovoltaic production costs are gradually coming to compete with the electricity prices paid by consumers (“grid parity” [→ Q64]). This should provide an incentive for self-generation, which could accelerate the deployment of this technology. The market will then have taken over from the RPC and the RU.


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