Transforming the energy system is possible – if we set our minds to it
More than 300 researchers have generated innovations and knowledge within the framework of the National Research Programmes “Energy Turnaround” (NRP 70) and “Managing Energy Consumption” (NRP 71) for implementing Switzerland’s Energy Strategy 2050. The programmes have now ended, and the Swiss National Science Foundation has published a joint summary titled “National Research Programme Energy”.
“Findings from the over 100 research projects of the National Research Programme ‘Energy’ show that, in principle, an economically and socially acceptable phase-out of nuclear energy and CO2-intensive energy sources is possible using the technological and financial means available to us today,” says Hans-Rudolf Schalcher, president of the NRP 70 Steering Committee. “But new technologies, to say nothing of new behaviours, are unlikely to become part of everyday life on their own,” adds Andreas Balthasar, president of the NRP 71 Steering Committee. “We all have to take responsibility: as citizens, consumers, politicians as well as in our other roles in society.”
Transforming the energy system is technically and financially feasible
The NRP “Energy” has generated many technical innovations. For example, advances have been made in familiar technologies such as building-integrated photovoltaics and deep geothermal energy. New optimisation methods increase the potential of hydropower. Researchers also conducted investigations into innovative technologies such as energy storage using batteries or compressed air, as well as new types of fuel cells.
Transforming the energy system is obviously a major financial challenge. However, research shows that it can be achieved in an economically and socially acceptable way with a steering tax and mechanisms for redistribution. Ecological tax reform and new financing models, such as energy cooperatives, will also help generate broader support.
Ensuring the security of the supply in this new energy system has been another subject of research in the framework of the NRP “Energy”. However, concluding an electricity agreement with the EU will also have a major influence on security of supply and the evolution of electricity prices.
We are all concerned – but knowledge and acceptance are still lacking
Transforming the energy system requires not only new technologies and infrastructure, but also effective regulations and incentives to change people’s behaviour. Only then can the energy-retrofitting rate of buildings be speeded up, for example, or mobility and logistics be made more efficient.
To win people over, gaps in knowledge need to be filled. A number of research projects conducted under the NRP “Energy” have shown that there is still not sufficient information available on the benefits of new technologies and behaviour. This applies not only to citizens, but also to decision-makers in politics and in business. Here, information about how a steering tax works is key, as is knowledge about personal advantages, such as better quality of life and convenience through energetically optimised living.
From research to everyday practice
To increase the social uptake of new technologies and behaviours and contribute to transforming the energy system, the NRP “Energy” summary provides concrete recommendations for energy suppliers, households, businesses, homeowners, investors, public administration, associations and NGOs, as well as the voting public and policy-makers.
Frédéric Varone, delegate of the National Research Council, sums up the message of the NRP “Energy” this way: “If we can manage – and the conditions are ideal – to develop the optimum technologies, direct financial resources in the right direction, win people over to the transition and make this a permanent part of their behaviour, Switzerland can move into the future with a new sustainable energy system.”
NRP 70 and 71: National Research Programme “Energy”
As part of the National Research Programmes “Energy Turnaround” (NRP 70) and “Managing Energy Consumption” (NRP 71) funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), over 300 scientists working on more than 100 research projects have gained fresh insights into how energy consumption could be substantially reduced as well as into new technologies and the societal framework required to implement them in the next 10 to 30 years.
Given the numerous crossover points between the two NRPs and the fact that both have taken place in parallel, NRP 70 and NRP 71 have worked closely together from the outset. Both NRPs concluded in January 2020 under the name “National Research Programme Energy". In addition to the joint summary, results of the main topics on “Acceptance”, “Energy Networks”, “Buildings and Settlements”, “Market Conditions and Regulation”, “Mobility Behaviour”, and Hydropower and Market” were also published.
Further information on the individual research projects and the National Research Programme “Energy” is available at www.nrp-energy.ch/en.