Combining renewable energies for a more sustainable Switzerland

Combined hydro-electric and wind power plant at Nufenen pass, Switzerland. © IStock

Combined hydro-electric and wind power plant at Nufenen pass, Switzerland. © IStock

The interdisciplinary consortium EDGE, which aims to promote decentralized renewable energy production in Swiss cities, midlands and the Alps, started its activities. The consortium is co-directed by two professors from the EPFL and the University of Geneva and has received six years of funding from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy.

Under the ambitious Energy Strategy 2050, the Swiss authorities intend to strengthen energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energies. Its successful implementation is a necessary contribution to the country's goal of achieving carbon neutrality by mid-century.

This neutrality requires in principle an almost or fully renewable energy supply in Switzerland, assuming the planned nuclear phase-out and a limited willingness to rely on energy from abroad. In the last 10 years, significant Swiss investment in energy research, innovation, and policy as well as rapid technology cost reductions accelerated the growth of new renewable generation like solar, biomass and wind, in addition to already well-established hydropower.

The progress so far varied by technology: biomass and especially solar PV grew faster, whereas wind power plants or enhanced geothermal systems stagnated, mostly due to lack of public acceptance. “It’s very important to push wind energy in order to be renewable and local. It’s such a reliable source, especially in Switzerland because you can always find a place where the wind blows under every weather condition, so the supply never stops. Together with photovoltaics, it is a very stable and reliable replacement for nuclear or fossil-based electricity, especially if PV is primarily placed at high elevations, comments prof. Michael Lehning, director of EPFL’s Laboratory of cryospheric sciences (CRYOS) and research group leader at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF.

Combining research and innovation

To contribute to this ambitious strategy, EPFL and the University of Geneva have set up a consortium co-led by Michael Lehning and Professor Evelina Trutnevyte (Unige), which will work on fast-tracking and integrating very high shares of local renewable generation into the Swiss system. The EDGE (Enabling Decentralized renewable GEneration in the Swiss cities, midlands, and the Alps) consortium, which has received six years of funding from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, will conduct a regionalized analysis tailored to the Swiss cities, midlands and Alps. It plans to combine research and innovation from three clusters of Pilot and Demonstration projects in urban settings (the cantons of Bern, Luzern, and Aargau), midlands (Waldkirch, the canton of St. Gallen), and the Alps (Davos and Bagnes-Verbier, in the cantons of Graubünden and Wallis).

“In the cities, solar photovoltaic with geothermal energy can be used for heating, while in the midlands it’s a completely different setting with agricultural biomass which can be combined with solar photovoltaic. The Alps are also different with their dispersed settlements. That is why we want to look at various combinations of technologies, but adapted to these three contexts. Of course, we also want to see how these three types of Swiss regions can connect”, says prof. Evelina Trutnevyte.

With overall costs of CHF 22.3 million in 2021-2027, the consortium involves essential inter- and trans-disciplinary expertise with 16 research partners (energy technology, systems modeling, political science, management, economics, and sustainability science) to identify the most effective measures to unlock the full potential of local renewable energy.


Total budget: CHF 21.2m, of which CHF 8m to be met by the new energy research programme SWEET (Swiss Energy Research for the Energy Transition) from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy :