If you want to get on the Solar Express, you have to hurry

If you want to get on the Solar Express, you have to hurry

When an energy crisis seemed ever more imminent in the fall, Parliament decided on a solar offensive. This should ensure the power supply for the winter. The idea: In Switzerland, in the Alps, where the sun often shines even in winter, large photovoltaic systems should be built as quickly as possible. The federal government covers up to 60 percent of the investment costs.

The Federal Council has now presented the conditions under which solar projects receive this support. He makes hefty conditions – above all, it has to be done quickly. Klaus Ammann, energy expert from SRF, explains what the Federal Council’s guidelines mean for the project planners.

Klaus Ammann

Klaus Ammann

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The historian and Russianist has been an editor at Radio SRF since 2004. Klaus Ammann has been working for the economics department since 2011. His focus is on energy and climate issues.

SRF News: What exactly are the conditions of the Federal Council?

Klaus Ammann: The plants have to be of a certain size before they can be funded by the federal government. They must produce at least ten gigawatt hours of electricity per year. That means electricity for 3000 households. In addition, the systems must be connected to the grid by the end of 2025 and start feeding in electricity. Also important: Only systems with a total production volume of two terawatt hours are used. A project is only counted if it has a legally binding building permit.

So if the systems have to be partially functional by 2025, things obviously have to happen relatively quickly now.

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It’s a very ambitious schedule. Up until now, the designers have not really been able to calculate because they did not know the conditions. Even now they still have to wait a month and a half before the Federal Office of Energy publishes the price scenarios. These are the basics of which electricity prices can be expected in the coming years.

Under the given conditions, it is possible that one or the other project engineer will reconsider whether he wants to take the risks.

To do this, the project planners must carry out environmental impact assessments and submit the building permit applications. Only then can they start building – and even that is not possible all year round. After all, there is snow in the mountains in winter. If another objection comes up, it will probably be hopeless for a project.

Federal Council expects up to 200 projects

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In the fall, Parliament decided on a solar offensive to ensure a more secure power supply in winter. The Federal Council estimates that no more than 200 projects will be developed over the next three years. With amendments to the Energy Act that will apply until 2025, Parliament has made it easier to approve large-scale photovoltaic systems.

The federal government reimburses up to 60 percent of the investment costs. These simplifications apply until large-scale photovoltaic systems throughout Switzerland generate a maximum of two terawatt hours of electricity per year.

Does that mean that the broad solar offensive is now becoming more of a minor reform?

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That’s a bit to worry about. Only a dozen projects are publicly known. There are many other projects that electricity companies have been talking about lately. Now it remains to be seen what will become of these projects. Under the given conditions, it is possible that one or the other designer will reconsider whether he wants to take the risks.

The plants that are supported now must already be supplying electricity by the end of 2025. What about systems that are only operational later?

This is now open again. This week, the National Council dealt with the so-called coat decree. The Council of States intended that alpine photovoltaics should continue to be funded after 2025. The National Council has now overturned this from the template. The power companies want to fight back.

In the unification conference between the National Council and the Council of States, we will have to see what comes out. As of today, that would further dampen the enthusiasm: Because if you are not quite sure that you will get into the Solar Express by 2025, you may not even start your project. That would of course reduce the number of alpine photovoltaic systems.

Rebecca Villiger conducted the interview.



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