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09.10.2018_No200 / News in Brief

Switzerland May Need Fossil Fuels To Replace Nuclear ‘Energy Gap,’ Says IEA Report

Policies & Politics

9 Oct (NucNet): Switzerland’s nuclear phaseout will create an energy gap of at least 20 TWh a year that will need to be replaced with other generation technologies, possibly including new fossil fuel capacity, a report by the International Energy Agency says.

This would require additional emissions reductions in other sectors to compensate for possible higher fossil fuel power generation if Switzerland wants to achieve its climate targets.

The report, ‘Energy Policies of IEA Countries: Switzerland Review 2018’, says the nuclear exit, starting in 2019 with the single-unit Mühleberg station, raises questions about ensuring security of supply, particularly during the winter months when Swiss electricity demand is already higher than domestic production. The nuclear exit will change the domestic production profile and could lead to Switzerland increasing its energy imports.

Nuclear power provides around 45% of the country’s power generation in winter when hydro reservoirs run low. Switzerland is therefore primarily facing an energy and not a capacity challenge, the report says. However, the need to cover the growing winter gap is posing security of supply questions that need addressing.

The report says Switzerland’s five commercial nuclear reactor units are a valued part of its “extremely low-carbon electricity mix” and can remain so if plant operators continue to demonstrate safe operation. Additional renewable capacity may not be brought online in time to fully replace the phasing out of nuclear plants after some 50 years of operation, the report says.

The report calls on the Swiss government to give clear policy signals on whether nuclear operators should plan to continue operating beyond 50 years. Clear policies are needed because of the investments and lead times required to refurbish nuclear plants and receive approval to operate for additional 10-year periods.

The report notes that nuclear power has provided a high and stable share of Switzerland’s energy supply since the 1980s, accounting for 22% of the total primary energy supply in 2017. Nuclear accounted for 16% of the installed capacity in 2016 and generated 34% of total electricity in 2017, which was the sixth highest among IEA member countries.

The report is online: https://bit.ly/2C5YmaZ

Related reports in the NucNet database (available to subscribers): Switzerland’s BKW Gets Go-Ahead To Decommission Mühleberg BWR (News in Brief No.126, 27 June 2018)

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