Swiss consider market options

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Switzerland's installed wind capacity rose to 8.4 MW in 2004 after the addition of two Vestas 1.75 MW turbines to the Mont Crosin wind station. A Dutch Lagerwey 850 kW machine was also replaced by an Enercon 600 kW turbine at Gütsch ob Andermatt. No wind turbines were installed in 2003. "For 2005, we expect about 3 MW," says Robert Horbaty, who the Swiss energy ministry has appointed as its head of wind energy research.

The Swiss wind energy target, contained in a document titled "Concept Wind Energy Switzerland" published by the ministry last year, is an annual 50-100 GWh of wind generated electricity by 2010, which would require wind plant with an installed capacity of 40-80 MW. A revised energy regulation in force at the start of this year should facilitate renewables development.

The new regulation requires the Swiss high voltage grid company to buy all green power fed into its network by Switzerland's 900 or so electricity companies. They are obliged to buy renewable energy for CHF 0.15/kWh (EUR 0.10/kWh) from producers. The transmission company must pay them the difference between the market price of electricity and the premium renewables rate, with the cost spread across all consumers. Previously, all the cost was born by local utilities, a structure that gave them no incentive to allow renewables plant onto their networks.

Meantime, the country is debating a future market structure for renewables, with three options under consideration: a continuation of the fixed price system, the introduction of a market for trade of green electricity certificates, or the operation of a competitive tender system for power purchase contracts. Horbaty suggests that an obligation from the start of next year on electricity companies to "label" their electricity will raise public awareness on the source of their electricity -- and have an effect on electricity companies' strategies.

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