Zero Carbon Compendium


'Until recently, Switzerland has been self sufficient and able to export energy in the summer months, with one of the lowest energy per capita figures in the developed world. More recently it has become a net annual importer, as demand has outpaced generation'

Key Facts

Country Population:7.6 m
Capital Population:346, 000
Area:39,770 km²
Density:195 people/km²

National Carbon Overview

Switzerland has one of the lowest owner-occupancy rates in Europe, at 35%. For the private householder, the purchase of a home is usually a long-term decision and they are therefore willing to invest in improvements with a longer-term view. The majority of dwellings consist of privately-owned rental stock at 57%, with 22% run by institutional investors, and approximately 8% owned by cooperatives.[1]

A long history of housing cooperatives has produced consistently high standards. Between 2001 and 2003, 23% of all new housing was cooperative housing. In 2008, 1000 new homes were built by cooperatives in Zurich alone and are normally developed with leading architects to achieve outstanding architectural and ecological quality.

Energy policy is the shared responsibility of the federal state and the country's 26 administrative divisions, known as cantons. Switzerland has significant energy generating capacity, with large scale hydroelectric among its portfolio of energy sources. Electricity generation is almost entirely CO2 free, as hydro and nuclear account for 95-97% of annual total generation, depending on hydropower conditions.[2] Until recently, Switzerland has been self sufficient and able to export energy in the summer months, with one of the lowest energy per capita figures in the developed world. This is largely due to the fact that it has a relatively small industrial/ manufacturing industry compared to other countries. More recently it has become a net annual importer, as demand has outpaced generation.


Exemplar Project

Brunnenhof Residential Building
Brunnenhof, Zurich

Brunnenhof. Georg Aerni.

This scheme, Zurich's first MINERGIE-Eco registered building, was completed in 2007 and includes 72 homes, ranging from 3-bedroom to 6-bedroom apartments.

As with all new developments in Zurich, the scheme had to meet the MINERGIE Standard for energy efficiency- the building is constructed to U-values of 0.2 W/m2K, cold bridging through balconies is minimised and 20% less fossil fuel energy is used compared to a similar building built to current building regulations. The apartments include insulation up to 200mm thick.

The underfloor heating and domestic hot water is supplied by a district heating network and the overall expenses do not exceed 10% of base line costs. The project also includes heat recovery from a local household waste incinerator.

While the colourful moving glass screens contribute to the aesthetics of the development, they also offer privacy and adjustable shading to the south facing balconies. The buildings are built from materials that contribute little environmental pollution, a requirement for achieving the MINERGIE-Eco certificate. In addition, the designers considered the environmental impact of all aspects of the project from fabrication through operation, to decommissioning.[4]

Policy and Targets

Under Kyoto, Switzerland has committed to an 8% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2012 based on 1990 levels. To date, there has been little change in GHG emissions since 1990. In 2007, the Action Plan on Renewable Energy was implemented, with the primary aim of increasing the share of renewable energy in the total primary energy supply from 16.2% in 2007 to 24% in 2020.

The Energy Efficiency Action Plan was released in 2008 outlining 15 measures to improve efficiency across multiple sectors. Overall, the plan aims to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 20% by

2020 and to cap electricity demand growth at 5% between 2010 and 2020. Building measures include the introduction of building certificates, strengthening building codes and related fiscal incentives.

Existing Frameworks

'MuKEn' is the alignment of canton building regulations into a single national regulation. The most recent revision in 2008 has placed the improvement in building envelopes as the foremost priority, as well as the promotion of waste heat and renewable energy, and the need to sensitise users to energy-efficient buildings.

The MINERGIE standard is a registered voluntary quality label for new and refurbished low-energy consumption buildings.[3] The standard is granted to buildings that provide high-grade, airtight building envelopes, with energy efficient ventilation systems. The maximum energy consumption is 38 kWh/m2 and 60 kWh/m2 for new and renovated residential buildings, respectively. Following its inception in 1998, 14,000 buildings have been certified. MINERGIE-P is the ultra-low energy equivalent of the MINERGIE standard, which demands a decrease in heat demand by 80%. MINERGIE-Eco is another enhancement that includes broader environmental considerations, such as health and materials.

Support, Incentives and Grants

There is a large and varied array of subsidies and grants distributed through the regional cantons. Most cantons offer financial incentives for new or renovated MINERGIE and MINERGIE-P buildings.

The Building Renovation Program was launched in 2010 and has been allocated CHF 300 million annually for the next 10 years. The federal sponsored scheme will address the installation of improved insulation in homes built before 2000. The regional component of the program will include funding in most cantons to encourage renewable energy, improved building technology and total building renovation.

There are widespread information initiatives as well as carbon and energy taxes. There is also a national feed‑in tariff to support the installation of renewable energy technology. The Swiss have the highest feed-in tariff in the world. An energy labelling program was launched in 2002 for household appliances and lighting, as per the EU Building Ordinance.



  1. International Cooperative Alliance. Housing Co-operatives in Switzerland
  2. International Energy Agency. (2007). Energy Policy of IEA Countries: Switzerland 2007 Review.
  4. Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Minergie – the building standard for the homes of tomorrow.
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