ERKC

Energy Research Knowledge Centre

Switzerland

Research themes and prioritisation

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The main driver for energy research in Switzerland is a modern and sustainable energy policy. After the Swiss resolution to phase out nuclear power (adopted in 2011) a new national energy strategy based on energy efficiency and renewable energy was formulated by the Federal Council. Innovative research and development is one of the main pillars of the new energy strategy. Energy policy is an integral part of the Swiss Federal Constitution. Policy instruments include among others the Energy Act, the CO2 Act, the Nuclear Energy Act and the Electricity Supply Act.

Organisation of research

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The Energy Research Commission CORE develops the Federal Energy Research Masterplan every four years, comments on public energy research activities and provides appropriate information concerning developments in the area of energy research. Within the federal administration, the support of energy research is organised by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) and the Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI.


Figure 1: Organisational structure of energy research in Switzerland.
CORE: Energy Research Commission.
CTI: Commission for Technology and Innovation.

The main public funding source is the ETH Board, the strategic management and supervisory body for Switzerland’s technical research institutions (ETH domain). The ETH Board allocates the federal budget to the two Federal Institutes of Technology, the research institutions Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology Development (Empa), Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), and the competence centres within the ETH domain (for energy research: Competence Centre Energy and Mobility, CCEM, as well as the Competence Center on Environment and Sustainability, CCES).

Several federal authorities are involved in funding energy research projects; these include the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) and the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) as a private foundation mandated by the Federal authorities funds basic science, National Research Programmes (NRP) and National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCR).

Energy research in Switzerland is carried out mainly by the members of the ETH domain (ETHZ, EPFL, PSI, Empa and Eawag). Beyond that, energy research is carried out by the cantonal universities and the universities of applied science.

Programmes and budgets

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The action plan on «Coordinated Energy Research Switzerland» was created as a consequence of the Swiss decision to phase out nuclear energy. It aims at building up capacities in energy research and strengthening thematical focal points. With this background, the Swiss Federal Council decided to devote the sources of the newly planned national research programmes (NRP call 2012) exclusively to energy research.

The Federal Energy Research Masterplan 2013–2016 spans four core areas:

  • Living and working in the future (energy efficiency of buildings);
  • Mobility in the future (energy efficiency in transport, substitution of fossil fuels);
  • Energy systems of the future (including smart grids, storage, renewable energy, combined gas and steam plants);
  • Processes in the future (material and energy efficiency in production, optimisation of energy flows, increasing product service life, recycling).

Budgets overview

Public funding in Switzerland has reached €173.5 million in 2009 in the four main energy areas:

  • Energy efficiency (including fuel cells, oil and gas, grids, other power and storage technologies) 37 %;
  • Renewable energies (including hydrogen, solar heat storage, ambient heat) 31 %;
  • Nuclear energy (nuclear fission and fusion) 25 %;
  • Energy, economy, Society and technology transfer (other cross-cutting technologies or research) 7 %.

The action plan on «Coordinated Energy Research Switzerland» decided by the federal parliament funds the build-up of capacity in energy research in seven clearly defined fields of action. For the period 20013–2016 an amount of €155 million is budgeted for building up research teams and new professorships within the ETH domain, the universities and the universities of applied sciences, and for competitive research projects (CTI).

The two new National Research Programs «Transforming Energy» (€32 million) and «Options for Controlling Final Energy Consumption» (€7 million will run over five years. Additionally the Pilot & Demonstration budget of the SFOE has been increased from €4.2 million to €12.5 million in 2013 and to €16.7 million for 2014 to 2020. For ordinary research projects the SFOE has a budget of approximately €17 million per year.

Table 1: Main programmes on energy research in Switzerland.

*Total funds: €14.5 million.

SNSF - Swiss National Science Foundation.
SFOE - Swiss Federal Office of Energy.

Currently running National Research Programmes with a Link to Energy

Transforming Energy (National Research Programme 70)

Energiewende

Transforming Energy (NRP 70) provides solutions and contributions for a sustainable Swiss energy policy. The programme focuses on technological innovations that can be applied to the relevant market segments and integrated into value chains within these segments. In this way, scientific insights gained in the programme will be put into practice as quickly as possible.

Options for Controlling Final Energy Consumption (National Research Programme 71)

Steuerungsmöglichkeiten des Endenergieverbrauchs

Options for Controlling Final Energy Consumption (NRP 71) will focus on socio-economic questions. At an overarching level, the programme aims to develop basic scientific knowledge and practical approaches that will facilitate regulatory decisions and help set the course for the new energy policy. Special attention will be given to areas with high savings potential: commercial and private electricity consumption, waste heat in residential buildings, and private transport.

Resource Wood (National Research Programme 66)

Ressource Holz

Resource Wood (NRP 66) is establishing basic scientific knowledge and practical methods for increasing the availability of wood as a resource and expanding its use.

The programme contains 28 research projects divided into six modules:

  • Raw wood: supply, policies and processes of provisioning;
  • Wood as a raw material for useful chemical substances;
  • Wood as a source of energy;
  • Wood as a material for components;
  • Wood-based structures and buildings;
  • Life-cycle assessment of wood-based material flows.

Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource (National Research Programme 68)

Nachhaltige Nutzung der Ressource Boden

Through interdisciplinary research, Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource (NRP 68) aims to fill research gaps, analyse the current condition of the soil more comprehensively and determine the key functions of soil as an ecosystem. Of particular interest with regard to energy is the issue of how to improve the interplay between spatial planning, energy production, and a resource policy that protects soil quality and minimises land-use fragmentation.

Projects will initially be funded for 36 months, after which funding may be extended for up to 24 months. The programme’s three research modules cover, respectively, knowledge of soil systems, tools for appraising soil as a resource, and concepts and strategies for the sustainable use of soil as a resource.

National government departments and offices

Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC)

Eidgenössisches Departement für Umwelt, Verkehr, Energie und Kommunikation

The Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) is responsible for executing Swiss policy for the sustainable use of energy. DETEC is totally committed to Agenda 21, the Federal Council Strategy and the Action Plan for 2012–2015 as the legal bases of Swiss sustainability policy.

Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER)

Eidgenössisches Departement für Wirtschaft, Bildung und Forschung (WBF)

The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) groups together the Swiss government's expertise in all matters regarding economic affairs and trade policy, as well as affairs relating to education, research and innovation. These are all areas considered vital to Swiss society and to its economic prosperity.

Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE)

Bundesamt für Energie (BFE)

The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) is responsible for all questions relating to energy supply and energy use within the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication (DETEC). Its tasks include the promotion of R&D in economical and efficient energy use and the use of renewable energy and the management and co-ordination of the SwissEnergy programme. SwissEnergy is not dedicated to research, but promotes the use of renewable energy and the efficient use of energy in trade and industry, the service sector and transport.

State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI)

Staatssekretariat für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation (SBFI)

The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation within the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER is the federal government agency specialising in general and university education, research and space exploration.

ETH Board

ETH Rat

The ETH Board is also part of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, and it represents the ETH domain vis-à-vis the federal authorities. It is responsible for the four-year ETH strategy as well as the allocation of federal funds to its institutions. The ETH Board also prepares the budget and accounts of the ETH domain and coordinates the management of its real estate.

Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI)

Eidgenössisches Nuklearsicherheitsinspektorat (ENSI)

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) is the national regulator for nuclear safety and security of Switzerland’s nuclear facilities, i.e. nuclear power stations, the interim storage facility for radioactive waste, and nuclear research facilities. ENSI is also involved in the transport of radioactive materials to and from nuclear facilities and in the continuing investigations to identify a suitable location for the deep geological disposal of radioactive waste. ENSI is an independent body constituted under public law.

National research programme management agencies

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The national energy programmes in Switzerland are managed by dedicated offices on behalf of the respective ministries and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (SNF)

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) supports basic research (see below) and manages the current National Research Programmes.

State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI)

Staatssekretariat für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation (SBFI)

The State Secretariat for Education and Research within the Federal Department of Home Affairs is the federal government agency specialising in general and university education, research and space exploration.

Funding organisations at national level

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The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (SNF)

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) supports basic research at universities and National Centres of Competence in Research, and provides grants to junior scientists.

Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI)

Kommission für Technologie und Innovation (KTI)

The Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) funds universities in public-private joint projects that aim to commercialise innovations. The CTI supports market-oriented R&D projects, the creation and development of start-up companies, and the transfer of knowledge and technology.