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This is where the power comes from the socket

This is where the power comes from the socket

Patrick Tugwiler

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Switzerland imports some of its electricity. Where it comes from and how it is advertised are two different things.

September 24, 2023 at 9:31 amSeptember 24, 2023 at 2:46 pm

Once a year, electricity suppliers in Switzerland must inform their customers about this Where do they get part of the electricity from?They do not produce themselves. For example, the Industrial Business of Basel (IWB) recently announced that 76.66% of its electricity needs (produced 100% from renewable energy sources) come from Switzerland and, consequently, 23.34% from abroad. This includes, for example, all wind energy and part of solar energy.

How do you describe it? Is there a wind turbine somewhere on the North Sea that only spins towards Switzerland? Unfortunately, the answer is not that simple.

It is important to know the following about power grids: The same amount should always be fed as is consumed. As an actor, you can imagine a huge swimming pool, with millions of drainage holes of different sizes (consumers) and thousands of inlets of different sizes (producers). The producers job is to ensure that there is always enough water flowing into the pool so that the level does not drop or rise. However, their individual additives are mixed during this process.

The pool example is useful because it shows that the consumer does not know the actual source of the actually purchased good. It gets water/electricity from the core. The question therefore arises as to how IWB can offer consumers electricity only from renewable sources.

To solve the dilemma, certificates of origin are produced in parallel with every kilowatt hour of electricity produced. These are negotiable. If a Swiss supplier promises that its energy comes from 100% renewable sources, it means nothing more than that the company has purchased the same amount of certificates of origin from renewable sources for the amount of electricity it has actually purchased. What may not seem obvious at first glance is a practical solution to enable guarantees of origin – and, most importantly, to compensate clean energy producers accordingly.

However, some of the consequences of this system are difficult to understand. Icelandic certificates can also be obtained. This is despite the fact that there is no line linking the island, which is 1,000 kilometers from the Norwegian mainland, to Europe. Only actual Icelandic electricity is consumed on the island – but certificates of origin are freely tradable. Swiss suppliers also buy them.

Therefore, the question of where to import electricity from can only be divided into guarantees of origin – this is what appears in the quarterly reports issued by Pronovo AG, the certified certification body for registering guarantees of origin in Switzerland (HKN cockpit). Before we get to the numbers for the first two quarters of 2023, there’s a bit of guesswork. Which certificates have Swiss electricity companies purchased the most?

Norwegian hydropower wins by a wide margin. German wind energy can be found further afield, even behind Dutch solar energy. By the way, we imported Serbian hydroelectricity in second place in the first quarter.

Import and export of electricity in the first quarter.  Exchange with Norway is the most intense.  It is followed by Serbia and France.

Import and export of electricity in the first quarter. Exchange with Norway is the most intense. It is followed by Serbia and France.Photo:

In the second quarter, and this indicates the volatility of the business, Serbian hydropower no longer played any role. Trade with Norway continues to flourish. Hydropower is also imported from France and Sweden. Again, German wind energy does not play a decisive role in this country, but Dutch photovoltaics do.


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