Areas of expertise
Switzerland is the leader in cleantech. While many regional and national players are still trying to position themselves in this field, Switzerland is not only home to the sector’s flagship companies, but has fully assimilated the philosophy of sustainable use of resources, making it an integral part of daily life for everyone.
Because of this approach, the wastewater treatment network covers most of the country, the recovery and sorting of waste has become second nature, construction standards as regards energy efficiency (Minergie®) are among the most stringent in the world, while the generation of electricity from renewable sources is reaching new heights, at almost 60% of the country’s electricity production, largely thanks to hydraulic energy.
Greentech is an incredibly vast field, so much so that CleantechAlps has chosen to focus its activities on developing industries with high added value for the economic fabric of western Switzerland, namely:
Photovoltaic solar energy is electrical energy produced by solar radiation. In the last few years, this market has seen annual growth of over 30% worldwide, and especially in Europe. Switzerland currently has an installed capacity of around 756 MW (end of 2013), which nevertheless represents only a tiny proportion of the electricity generated nationally (about 0.82% at the end of 2013). However, the adoption of a cost-based feed-in tariff has given new impetus to the Swiss photovoltaic market.
Small-scale hydraulic energy
In Switzerland, small hydroelectric power stations are installations with a gross rated output of up to 10 MW. The country has over 1000 small hydroelectric power stations amounting to around 859 MW installed power and producing 3800 GWh annually (2010). Technical innovations and measures aimed at reducing their environmental impact mean that small hydroelectric power stations are inexpensive sources of electricity, allowing renewable energy to be produced in a way that is decentralised and does not harm the environment. One particular example in this field is the use of turbines to produce electricity from drinking water supply systems.
The aim of recovering waste is to reuse it, either indirectly as recycled materials (manufacture of paper, glass, plastics, or even the production of energy from organic waste via biocomposting or gasification) or directly (recovery of electronic components). In 2013, waste recovery in Switzerland amounted to 359 kg of household and industrial waste per person. This represents almost 51% of urban waste and mainly consists of paper, organic waste and glass. However, there are significant differences between products. With almost 95% of glass being recycled, there is little scope for further progress. On the other hand, the rates for other products such as paper and cardboard (91%), PET (83%) or batteries (70%) leave room for considerable improvement. Likewise, the residual waste incineration sector is heavily oriented towards cogeneration systems, which enable the heat from combustion to be recovered in order to heat buildings or produce process steam.
Water is a vital resource both for economic development and for people’s well-being. Like the air and the earth, this resource must be treated with respect and awareness to ensure that its quality is maintained. It is Switzerland’s main raw material.
Life depends on the water cycle. Although Switzerland enjoys the great privilege of having adequate supplies of high-quality water, it has nevertheless continued to develop technology in this field. Thus, it is encouraging the construction of an efficient water treatment network throughout the country. At present, 97% of households are connected to the mains sewerage system.
Before it reaches the tap, water has to be treated. There are some 3000 water suppliers in Switzerland, supplying over 1 billion cubic metres of drinking water per year, the equivalent of about 2% by volume of the country’s recorded rainfall. However, in some regions, spring water merely has to be filtered before distribution via the drinking water network. This fortunate position has generated a great deal of interest in the field, so that the water treatment industry is booming in western Switzerland.
Smart grids are a type of technology used for the distribution of energy and regulation of its consumption by SMEs and domestic consumers. With the increase in energy generation from renewable sources, network stability is increasingly an issue. This is because renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power are dependent on meteorological conditions, which are very variable and difficult to predict. This leads to a variation in energy generation across the network which affects its stability. As a result, the regulation of the network has to be adapted and new technologies and applications need to be developed.
The development of smart grids is crucial to the energy industry of the future and Switzerland is playing a major role in this because of its geographic and historic position at the centre of Europe. The Swiss electricity network is thus of vital importance in international trading. For several decades, it has acted as an international platform guaranteeing the balancing of supply and demand. Switzerland was one of the founder members of ENTSO-E (European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity), which draws together 42 transmission system operators from 34 European countries. The figures confirm Switzerland’s importance in this sector, with more than 30 lines connecting the Swiss transmission network to networks in other countries, and carrying 11% of all the electricity exchanged between the member countries of ENTSO-E.
The principle of industrial ecology, based on natural ecosystems, is to consider the flows of materials and energy as closed loops. The waste products of one industry become the raw materials of another, the residual heat produced by the activities of one company can be recovered for the activities of another.
Industrial ecology is thus an interdisciplinary field whose ultimate aim is "to be able to devise a symbiotic industrial system where the flows pass through production loops as in the example of a relatively stable natural ecosystem".
The energy efficiency
In Switzerland, the construction sector alone accounts for 45% of the country’s energy consumption. This means there are some major challenges to be faced, because measures concerning new buildings, and even more so those concerning the renovation of existing buildings, can make a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. There is one key word in this field: insulation. The current trend is for the construction of positive energy buildings, in other words, buildings with very low energy consumption which make use of renewable sources of energy. The Minergie® and Minergie P® standards, which have been developed and applied in Switzerland, are among the most demanding in the world.
L’éco-mobilité concerne la mise en place de modes de transports les moins polluants possibles et à moindre impact sur l’environnement, en particulier en regard des émissions de gaz à effet de serre. Cette notion s’insère parfaitement dans l’approche globale d’urbanisme en développement à l’instar de la planification des éco-quartiers.
Il s’agit d’un ensemble de nouveaux procédés, de nouvelles techniques ou de nouveaux matériaux qui proposent des fonctionnalités non disponibles à ce jour, permettant de développer des applications nouvelles telles que la microfiltration ou les couches fonctionnelles.