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Example: The Swiss Energy Perspectives

To mitigate climate change, Switzerland is aiming at net-zero emissions by 2050. The Swiss Energy Perspectives provide detailed pathways on how this might be achieved.

This presents Switzerland with challenges. What is the plan to meet them – or at least some of them? The plan is described by the Swiss “Energy Perspectives 2050+.” These “Energy Perspectives” underpin Switzerland’s energy strategy. They are one of many parts of the country’s move towards a more sustainable development.

For more than 50 years, Switzerland has used the planning tool of “Energy Perspectives”; that is, a formalised development of an outlook on how the energy system could evolve over the next decades. Today, these energy perspectives are based on numerical simulation models that describe possible pathways for attaining important objectives in the energy system.

In the current energy perspectives, the objectives that have to be met are a transfer to “net-zero” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions until 2050, a secure supply of energy, and the aim of reaching these targets in a way that induces minimal costs to society.

Using different assumptions on future technological and societal developments, Switzerland has built different scenarios that meet these targets.

One of these scenarios is the “ZERO Base” scenario. The assumption here is that mobility and space heating are partially electrified. This means that electric vehicles and heat pumps will replace internal combustion engines and fossil fuel-powered heating systems to a substantial extent, but not fully. To compensate for remaining emissions, carbon capture and storage as well as negative emissions technologies are used. Furthermore, some emissions might be compensated by negative emissions in other countries; that is, the scenario allows for international emission compensation.

You can have a look at this scenario under the following links (unfortunately the content is only available in German):

Energy Perspectives 2050+, GHG emissions (in German)

Energy Perspectives 2050+, Electricity Mix (in German)

Energy Perspectives 2050+, Composition of Final Energy Consumption (in German)

It is interesting to have a look at how the mix of energy sources has changed and is expected to change over time:

Bar Chart Race: Energy Sources

In addition to this base scenario, further scenarios were calculated based on different assumptions as to which technologies will be of great importance in the future. There is a scenario with a much higher level of electrification (ZERO A), a scenario where bio- and synthetic fuels as well as hydrogen become important (ZERO B), and a scenario where district heating is important in addition to such fuels (ZERO C).

All these scenarios meet the target of net-zero emissions by 2050. However, security of supply is achieved by relying to a substantial extent on imports of electricity. Furthermore, all scenarios come at a cost. The reduction of GHG emissions requires investments and operational costs, which leads to overall costs of about CHF 2.4 billion per year in the ZERO Base scenario. The other scenarios are somewhat more expensive (Bundesamt für Energie, 2020).

Furthermore, all scenarios are based on the assumption of energy conversion potentials. These are the result of calculating which part of the technical potential (for example, the usable rivers for hydropower plants) can be used without causing irreversible damage to ecosystems or society.

This results in the techno-ecological potential that is seen as the upper limit to using a given technology. The approach facilitates the inclusion of additional considerations, such as destroying habitats, into the planning process. However, it is obvious that the main concerns are GHG emissions and economic costs, as these targets are explicitly modelled and transparently described.

Additional analyses look at the economic impacts of the policy; that is, impacts on economic growth and welfare (Bundesamt für Energie, 2022). They also examine what kind of policy instruments could be used to deliver the planned emission reductions (for example, a CO2 tax). These additional analyses look at a highly aggregated economy, i.e. they examine the overall effects rather than the distribution of effects across different parts of the population.

Author: Frank Krysiak


Bundesamt für Energie (2020). Energieperspektiven 2050+: Kurzbericht. (website in English; scroll down for Kurzbericht in German)

Bundesamt für Energie (2022). Energieperspektiven 2050+: Volkswirtschaftliche Auswirkungen: Technischer Bericht. (website in English; scroll down for Technischer Bericht in German)