The new Energy Strategy 2050, which was approved by the Swiss populace by referendum on 21 May 2017, sets forth ambitious targets for saving energy along with a phased withdrawal from nuclear energy and development of electricity production electricity using new renewable energies.
Eventually, the gradual decommissioning of nuclear power stations will reduce Switzerland's domestic production capacity by some 40%. This generation shortfall , estimated at 25 TWh, cannot be narrowed by new renewable energies alone because their estimated peak potential of 24 TWh will not be achieved until 2050. Moreover, since renewable energies are intermittent and strongly dependent on the weather, it is important to take a realistic view of their contribution to the Swiss energy mix. Another solution would be to make extensive use of imports, although this would not be desirable for Switzerland’s energy independence and continuity of supply.
Natural gas has valuable advantages which can help the country fulfil these objectives.
Compared with other fossil fuels, natural gas has a low environmental impact. When substituted for fossil fuels, it reduces the pollutant load on the air and the climate.
In fact, during combustion, it avoids:
- 25% of CO2 emissions (and up to 40% when combined with biogas) compared with heating oil.
- Almost all emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
- Emissions of fine particulate matter harmful to health.
Natural gas is non-toxic and odourless. Furthermore, natural gas carried in underground pipelines is unobtrusive. It does not impede traffic, disfigure the landscape or create noise. Air quality is thus preserved.
Finally, biogas, which is produced from green waste, household waste and sludge from waste water treatment plants, further reduces the pollutant load. The natural gas produced in this way contains an appreciable proportion of carbon-neutral renewable gas obtained from the fermentation of various types of waste.
Watch the video: the use of natural gas as a green fuel
Combined-cycle gas turbine plants (CCGTs)
Combined-cycle gas turbine plants are capable of gradually taking over from nuclear power plants as they reach the end of their lifecycle. CCGTs are large, gas-powered, thermal power stations which are highly efficient because they make use of both gas turbines and steam turbines. With their low investment cost, rapid construction and sound environmental performance, CCGTs will help boost the share of renewable energies in the Swiss energy mix between now and 2050.
At present, a large number of projects are being considered, especially the Cornaux and Chavalon power stations in Western Switzerland, each of which will have an output of 400 MWe and provide potential electricity production of 2 to 3 TWh per year.