The Federal Council and Parliament are planning to make far-reaching changes to energy supply in Switzerland. As part of the “Swiss Coordinated Energy Research” action plan, Innosuisse, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) have the joint mandate of managing and financing the establishment and operation of interdisciplinary research networks between higher education institutions, the Swiss Competence Centers for Energy Research (SCCERs). Innosuisse also receives additional funding for innovation projects in the field of energy.
The SCCERs are looking for solutions to the technical, social and political challenges relating to the 2050 Energy Strategy. Eight SCCERs are currently working on seven action areas. The centres bring together academia and industry, going a long way towards ensuring the transfer of knowledge and technology. They deal with the full spectrum of the energy innovation chain, from basic research and applied R&D to legal, regulatory and behavioural aspects. The SCCERs also provide research infrastructures as well as many opportunities to network with key experts and young researchers from the areas concerned.
CHF 120 million has been allocated to carry out this mandate in the 2017 – 2020 period. For the promotion of innovation projects, Innosuisse has earmarked an additional CHF 19 million on top of the regular budget for the same period.
Successful initial funding period
Founded in 2013 and 2014, the SCCERs have been able to successfully push forward with the development work until the end of 2016, at which point a total of over 1,100 researchers were working in these centres, forging many connections to industry and establishing themselves within the Swiss innovation ecosystem. As a result, the Federal Council suggested that the programme be continued – a recommendation that was implemented by parliament.
While the 2013–2016 funding period was devoted to setting up the centres, the work will be developed further over the next four years. In addition, priority will be given to projects carried out by SCCERs working together (known as joint activities). These projects are intended to reinforce interdisciplinary cooperation between the centres.
Seven action areas – eight SCCERs
This action area addresses the efficiency of energy and the rational usage of energy, taking into account the entire building sector as well as industrial processes. Two SCCERs are working in this action area:
This action area focuses on electrical networks. Alongside their stability and Switzerland’s supply security, the key topics include the integration of intermittent renewable power sources and smart grids ‒ also with regard to the inclusion of corresponding storage technology.
The potential use of renewable energy sources is closely related to the energy storage possibilities at hand. These must be able to compensate for fluctuations in production and provide consumers with reliable, efficient and cheap energy and heat.
Switzerland can enjoy the natural advantages of great differences in altitudes and sufficient precipitation. Technical innovations for existing and new hydropower plants as well as mechanisms to regulate and connect water supply to electricity production in the best possible way are to be developed.
This action area focuses on making amendments to regulatory frameworks as well as incentive mechanisms related to supply and demand. Taking into consideration a wide spectrum of social-science expertise, the aim of this action area is to investigate which social, political and economic implications arise from certain institutional structures and incentive systems on the micro, meso and macro levels.
For mobility on the roads and in the air, fossil fuels are mainly utilised, emitting correspondingly high levels of CO2. In Switzerland, road transport has the greatest innovative potential with regard to efficiency, with efficient vehicles being one of the key research areas.
An efficient and wide-spread use of biomass to ensure the supply of renewable energy calls for efficient utilisation technologies to be implemented on the market. The aim is to use biomass in such a way that the greatest possible savings in the use of non-renewable resources are made while causing a minimum amount of damage to the environment.
Last modification 21.02.2018