Rates too low says Swiss wind lobb

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The Swiss government has introduced a fixed purchase rate for wind power too low to make wind farm operation economic, says national wind federation Suisse Eole. "Only a few sites with the very best wind speeds can be utilised," it adds.

Under a new energy regulation passed in March, to apply from the start of 2009, the government is offering SWF 0.20/kWh (EUR 0.124/kWh) for the first five years of operation, subsequently dropping to SWF 0.17/kWh (EUR 0.105/kWh) for turbines on sites in windy areas. Although the rate is an improvement on the current SWF 0.15/kWh, the new regulation rules out additional income from sale of renewable energy certificates, which currently brings in about another SWF 0.10/kWh (EUR 0.06/kWh) in "ecological value," points out Reto Rigassi of Suisse Eole.

The stated intention of the new law is to make wind generation viable on sites with typical Swiss winds. Rigassi says Suisse Eole will monitor progress under the new pricing regime for three years to see if the purpose of the law is being achieved. By that time it will be evident that the rate is not high enough, he claims. Alternatively, Suisse Eole may appeal to parliament now or even take the government to court. The association had called for a rate of SWF 0.28/kWh (EUR 0.17/kWh) dropping to SWF 0.20/kWh (EUR 0.12/kWh).

The new energy regulation also allows for renewables generation to be sold directly into the voluntary eco-electricity market. But this market only paid for 9 GWh of generation, or some 6 MW, in 2006. Demand could expand two, three or fourfold and still not create a steady market, says Rigassi.

Switzerland currently has 11.25 MW of operating wind capacity. Another 11 projects with a combined capacity of 94 MW are at various stages of planning and earmarked to come on line before the end of 2012 if judged to be financially viable.

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