GENEVA As Switzerland moves away from nuclear energy, experts are looking into ways to encourage people to switch to renewable energy sources for their homes, such as solar power. The clean energy source is more environmentally friendly than many others, they say, but this is not what led to a 33% increase in solar-panel sales last year; it was a drop in the price. “The massive price reduction is certainly the main driver for growth,” said David Stickelberger, manager of the Swiss professional association for solar power, Swisolar. “The reasons were lower module prices, but also more competition between specialized installers.”
The investment in switching to solar at home is also made more attractive with existing and planned government incentives. As of 1 April, homes will receive a one-time reimbursement of approximately 30% of the investment costs. “At the same time, self-consumption will be allowed explicitly,” said Stickelberger, meaning homeowners can opt to use their own electricity to reduce electric bills to nearly zero. “Additionally, several cantons and utilities have their own ‘bridging’ schemes, and 24 cantons allow tax deductions.” Stickelberger says a typical installation on a single family house costs between CHF 15,000 and CHF 20,000, and its capacity will more than cover average consumption.
The Energy Economics Group at the Paul Scherrer Institute suggested last year that costs of electricity production are likely to increase in Switzerland by at least 50% by 2050. Asked if there is enough sun around Lake Geneva, Stickelberger said, “Oh yes, Geneva and Vaud are sunnier than the rest of the Swiss central plateau.”