Wind farms and solar installations already produce almost 50% of the energy that Switzerland gets from nuclear power plants, a new study finds.
Renewable energy sources could replace all of the power that Switzerland gets from nuclear plants sooner than people think, according to the study released on Thursday by Energy Future Switzerland.
That’s because of the fast pace of investment in renewable energy, the Swiss association says.
"At this pace of investment all the Swiss nuclear power plants can be replaced by renewable energy within about six years,” said the nonprofit’s director, Aeneas Wanner, in a statementexternal link. The association partners with utilities and others to promote energy efficiency and develop renewable energy sources.
Japan’s catastrophic meltdown at a nuclear plant in March 2011 – triggered by a tsunami that killed some 15,000 people – sparked Switzerland’s decision to phase out nuclear power productionexternal link.
Since that decision five years ago, the Swiss have struggled to agree on what to do with its five existing nuclear plants. Parliament has refusedexternal link to put a time limit on how long the plants operate.
Energy from abroad
On November 27, Switzerland will hold a nationwide vote on its nuclear power plants. The Swiss popular initiativeexternal link calls for amending the Constitution to prohibit getting electricity or heat from nuclear power. It also would set times for when the five plants must be shut down.
In 2015, Swiss electricity consumption rose 1.4% to 58.2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), the Federal Office of Energy reportedexternal link. More than a third – 22.1 billion kWh – came from the five nuclear plants.
But there’s a catch to replacing that nuclear power-generated electricity: a large portion of the renewable energy sources that Switzerland would rely on lie outside its borders, the study finds.
That has security implications. Switzerland, already reliant on Europe’s power grid, would likely draw more electricity from wind farms and other sources in France, Germany and Scandinavian countries.