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Low-Carbon Switzerland Faces Energy Transition Issues

Switzerland's decision to phase-out nuclear power in 2017 will continue to cause considerable energy-sector transition challenges in the coming decades, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said late Monday.

According to the IEA, although the country has the lowest carbon-intensity in its energy supplies among all IEA member countries, thanks to a largely carbon-free electricity sector dominated by hydro and nuclear generation, its move away from nuclear will mean challenges ahead in filling the gap left by nuclear power station closures while maintaining low-carbon generation and high standards of supply security.

The agency warned that more ambitious reforms in the energy sector are needed to address security of supply issues, although the country’s Energy Strategy 2050 maps a way towards a low-carbon economy with higher energy efficiency and renewable energy sources replacing nuclear energy.

The IEA suggested that Switzerland’s abundant hydro pumped storage and reservoir capacities are important resources for the country’s energy transition.

"Further investment in hydropower should be encouraged through a reform of the water royalty linked to electricity market prices," it suggested.

The agency, however, also argued that Switzerland would be increasingly reliant on imports from its European neighbors to meet electricity demand, especially during the winter months when low water levels impact production from hydro plants.

The agency added that Switzerland’s hydro capacity could also function as a battery for the growing share of variable renewable energy in Europe. "Fully opening the Swiss electricity market and the complete integration into the European electricity market will be central to meeting Switzerland’s future energy needs,” Paul Simons, the IEA deputy executive director, was quoted as saying.

The IEA encouraged the Swiss government to bring ongoing negotiations with the EU on an electricity agreement to a successful outcome as both Switzerland and the EU will gain access to flexible energy supplies, according to Simons.

- Additional climate policies urgently needed

Despite its population growth of 15 percent and its economy expansion of 30 percent, Switzerland has made important progress in energy efficiency, with the country’s energy consumption at the same level in 2016 as it was in 2000, the IEA said.

"But achieving the country’s emission reduction targets set for 2020 looks ambitious based on current trends," the agency warned, and called for additional climate policies that are urgently needed for the post-2020 period to help achieve the country’s binding 2030 climate goals.

Switzerland’s CO2 levy on fossil fuels and its automatic upward adjustment in case intermediate emission targets are not met, has proven highly effective in shifting energy demand from oil towards gas and renewables, and supporting investments in energy efficiency, the IEA noted.

"The CO2 levy represents a best policy practice example to inspire other countries, but transport fuels that are exempt from the CO2 levy and emissions in that sector are actually growing,” Simons said. The IEA called on the Swiss government to more proactively develop a strategy for electric mobility to limit emissions from the transport sector.

(Anadolu Agency)

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