Energy cooperatives in Switzerland: what is their status and where are they headed?

The image shows the sun in a blue summer sky.

The NRP 71 project “Collective financing of renewable energy” discusses challenges facing energy cooperatives and their future prospects in a workshop.

Researches and representatives of the energy cooperatives, municipalities and NGOs met at the conclusion of the NRP 71 research project “Collective financing of renewable energy” in order to discuss the current situation and the future prospects of energy cooperatives.

According to the survey conducted within the framework of the research project, a total of 289 energy cooperatives are currently active on the market – a few of which are “heavyweights” that generate in excess of 2 GWh of renewable power each year with numerous PV installations. Most energy cooperatives stated the promotion of renewable energies as the primary purpose of their activities in the survey. Most meet this objective through the generation of solar power. However, the operation of distribution networks, the marketing of power and the generation and distribution of heat can also be among the activities of the cooperatives. The research project focussed on electricity-generating energy cooperatives, which make up the vast majority of these organisations.

Due to low electricity sales prices, the growth prospects for energy cooperatives are modest. This fact and the development of self-consumption communities pose them with major challenges and call for innovative approaches that some are already spawning. These require the further development of cooperations as well as the specialist expertise within the energy cooperatives.

As part of the workshop headed up by Prof. Irmi Seidl, Head of the Research Unit Economics and Social Sciences of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), and Prof. Britta Klagge, a member of the Department of Geography of the University of Bonn, approaches were discussed with the objective of opening up new areas of activity for energy cooperatives, promoting cooperation with municipalities and strengthening the networking between the cooperatives.

The results of the survey conducted with the Swiss energy cooperatives are available to download.