In a surprising move, Switzerland has adopted one of the world's most aggressive systems of Advanced Renewable Tariffs.
The Swiss, famed for conservative traditions, stodgy bankers and trains that run on time, have joined a growing list of countries using feed-in tariffs to promote the rapid development of renewable energy.
Not content to start with a timid program incrementally raising the bar year by year, the Swiss federal government this spring launched a full-system of feed-in tariffs differentiated by technology, size and application. There are tariffs, or payments per kilowatt-hour (kWh), for solar photovoltaics, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass.
The Swiss system, like those in Germany, France and Spain, pays a renewable energy generator for every kWh of electricity generated. The payments are made for periods of 20 to 25 years, depending upon the technology.
The new Swiss tariffs, among the highest in the world, are the first to include a specific tariff for small wind turbines — those under 10 kW — of 0.20 SWF/kWh (US $0.20/kWh) for 20 years.
The states of Michigan, Illinois, Rhode Island and Minnesota have proposed similar tariffs for small wind turbines, US $0.25/kWh, but none of the proposals have yet become law.
Tariffs for large wind turbines use the German system of tariff differentiation by resource intensity. Because of the rugged Swiss terrain, the program's designers needed to provide tariffs for wind energy that would enable profitable operation in deep valleys as well as on windy mountaintops, while at the same time protecting ratepayers from unnecessary costs.
In the Swiss system, every wind turbine is paid the same price for its electricity during the first five years. After that, production is averaged. The average is then compared with a reference site defined in the law. Depending upon the wind resource, the premium payment of 0.20 SWF/kWh is extended beyond the first five years. After the premium period, the tariff falls to 0.17 SWF/kWh (US $0.17/kWh) for the remainder of the 20-year contract. For the reference site, the premium payment of 0.20 SWF/kWh (US $0.20/kWh) is extended for the full 20-year period.
The wind tariffs are among the highest in the world, but less than those requested by Suisse Eole. The trade association calculated that with Swiss terrain, and the high cost of wind turbines, 0.28 SWF/kWh (US $0.28/kWh) would be necessary for the first five years, and 0.20 SWF/kWh for the post-premium period.
The tariffs for solar PV put Switzerland on a par with Germany and France, though the contract period of 25 years is the longest outside Spain. For rooftop systems of less than 10 kW in size, the tariffs are 0.75 SWF/kWh. For building integrated solar PV, the tariffs rival those in neighboring France. For building-integrated systems of less than 10 kW in size, the tariffs are 0.90 SWF/kWh (US $0.88/kWh).
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