01 July 2015

The Federal Council and Parliament aim to gradually phase out nuclear energy in Switzerland by 2035. They therefore aim to promote research into energy over the coming years. In accordance with the Swiss Coordinated Energy Research action plan, the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) has the mandate to finance and manage the creation of research networks between higher education institutions. The institutions of the ETH Domain are participating in all eight Swiss Competence Centers for Energy Research (SCCER), for seven of these as leading house.

Energy has already been a central field of research in the ETH Domain for years, and with ETH Zurich, EPFL and its four research institutes, the ETH Domain covers the entire value-creation chain – from basic research to product-specific development, which will be to the benefit of industry and innovative SMEs in Switzerland.

The SCCERs, which started operations in 2014, are looking for solutions to the technical, social and political challenges arising as a result of the energy revolution. All SCCERs explore and develop solutions that are marketable and socially acceptable, and that can be seamlessly developed by industry. Eight SCCERs were created in seven action areas:

Efficiency

This action area deals both with efficiency in energy supply and with rational use of energy. In includes the whole of the buildings sector and industrial processes.

SCCER Future Energy Efficient Buildings & Districts (SCCER FEEB&D)
Leading House: Empa

SCCER Efficiency of Industrial Processes (SCCER EIP)
Leading House: ETH Zurich

Grids and their components, energy systems

This area of action focuses on power grids. Central issues include the stability of the electricity grid, security of supply in Switzerland and the integration of intermittent renewable power and smart grids, also with regard to storage technologies.

SCCER Future Swiss Electrical Infrastructure (SCCER-FURIES)
Leading House: EPFL

Storage

Important questions facing future energy supply are: how to store heat at different temperatures, how best to store electrical, chemical and mechanical energy and how to convert it into a useable form.

SCCER Heat and Electricity Storage (SCCER Hae)
Leading House: PSI

Power supply

Technical innovations for existing and new facilities and new hydropower plants need to be developed, as do mechanisms to optimally control and link water supply and electricity production. There is also extensive untapped geothermal and geostorage potential in Switzerland: deep geothermal can be used to meet base load demand.

Swiss Competence Center on Supply of Electricity (SCCER-SoE)
Leading House: ETH Zurich

Economy, environment, law, behaviour

For the energy revolution to be successful, many institutional changes in policy and in the energy markets need to take place in addition to technological innovation. In this action area, experts from a wide range of social sciences are called upon to ascertain the social, political and economic implications arising from certain institutional structures and incentive systems.

Competence Center for Research in Energy, Society and Transition (SCCER CREST)
Leading House: Universität Basel

Efficient concepts, processes and components in mobility

About 34% of total energy use in Switzerland is in the transport sector – moving people and goods around on roads, rail and in the air. Road transport in Switzerland has the greatest innovation potential for efficiency savings. Research focuses on more efficient vehicles, e.g. lightweight, considerably more powerful and reliable electrochemical batteries for use in electrically powered transport, and new urban models to reduce work-related mobility.

SCCER Efficient Technologies and Systems for Mobility (SCCER Mobility)
Leading House: ETH Zurich

Biomass

If biomass is to become an efficient and widespread source of renewable energy, more efficient end-use technologies need to become established on the market. The main focus of research at the SCCER includes: availability and use of biomass; use of biogas to generate electricity and heat; gas and liquid energy sources from biomass.

SCCER Biomass for Swiss Energy Future (SCCER BIOSWEET)
Leading House: PSI