More than 600 MW stymied

Wind projects totalling around 660 MW in Switzerland, all still waiting for formal planning approval, have been deemed eligible by Swissgrid to receive fixed power purchase payments under the government's renewable energy support program. Projects will only get the payments if they are approved for construction within the next two years. The power purchase prices come into effect next year and are set at CHF 0.20/kWh (EUR 0.138/kWh) for the first five years of operation and CHF 0.17/kWh (EUR 0.117/kWh) for the next 15 years (Windpower Monthly, May 2008). If projects fail to secure permits in time, their developers will have to reapply for the subsidy support. "An initial surge of applications was made back in May when the doors to the support program were opened," says Bernard Gutknecht of Swiss wind energy organisation Suisse-Eole. "Since then, not much has been added." Switzerland's current wind capacity stands at just 13.57 MW. Gutknecht expects 10% of the 660 MW currently in the planning system to get approval within the two years due to the length and difficulty of procedures. Other projects, he adds, will not be viable under the planned prices because they "only make economic sense for turbines at extremely good sites." Suisse Eole has called for purchase prices to be set at CHF 0.23/kWh (EUR 0.159), dropping to CHF 0.20/kWh (EUR 0.138/kWh). At best, says Gutknecht, around 91 wind projects totalling 171 MW have a good chance of getting built in Switzerland by 2012 under the current system. For 2009, the renewables budget has been set at CHF 258 million (EUR 178.78 million), paid for by a levy on electricity consumers of CHF 0.045/kWh (EUR 0.031/kWh). Around 30% of the budget is earmarked for wind. The government has made it clear that annual budgets will not go above EUR 320 million, capping the maximum possible levy on end use electricity consumers at CHF 0.06/kWh (EUR 0.041/kWh).