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Model – Sustainable Energy in Basle, Switzerland

Posted in Models, Research, Visions by fedwards on June 26th, 2007


Basle (or Basel), Switzerland, has an innovative energy policy which uses tax encouragement and incentives, and a solar market. Realising that they don’t have oil but they do have earth heat and driven to sustainable options due to the cantonal Constitution that Basle may not use electric current from nuclear means, the city has decided to dig a 2.5km deep hole to supply a geothermal power station to power 5000 households. Details below are from an article by Dominique Schärer.

“With the heat we think we can find there, we can cover several percents of our energy needs”, explains Jürg Hofer, head of the Office for the Environment and Energy. “It’ll be a first in the heart of Europe”, explains an enthusiastic Bernhard Piller at the Swiss Energy Foundation (Schweizerische Energie Stiftung – SES).

There are also tax incentives to fund this sustainable energy source – 5% on each electric bill, or $40 per resident per year – yields 10 million ($8 million) francs each year. This sum is reinvested in renewable energies and energy savings, such as thermal insulation for old buildings.

“The local economy also benefits from this tax”, claims Benjamin Szemkus, from the Association of Entrepreneurs in Basle-City (Association des entrepreneurs de Bâle-Ville), which has backed this policy from the start. The revenue from the tax has for example been invested in communal programs for the renovation of flat roofs and windows, the use of low consumption bulbs and other things such as less energy-hungry fridges. “We want to show the Basle people that the sustainability efforts also translate into contracts for our companies”, Szemkus adds.

With its new energy law in 1999, Basle inaugurated the first tax incentive in Switzerland (which favors savings behavior) for electricity: 2 to 4 centimes per kWh, which allowed for 50 million francs to be redistributed ($40 million) to the economy and 10 million francs ($8 million) amongst households. “The electric current consumption in Basle is clearly increasing less than in the rest of Switzerland”, Hofer explains. In fact, no assessment has proven that it’s linked to the tax incentive. “The tax incentive is for us a means to reach the ecological fiscal reform that we advocate”, Bernhard Piller from the FSE explains. However, he nevertheless feels that electricity is still too cheap in Basle.

The energy law also requires the creation of a market for solar electricity. The Industrial Services in Basle (Industriellen Werke Basel – IWB) are thus forced to buy part of the available solar current at the cost price. The IWBs at present take the current from 111 installations up to 1800kw peak (each year, 300kw peak are added), and resell it to consumers who subscribe to obtain “green” electric current. For now, the solar part of the city’s electric consumption is still at the per-thousands level.

“The Basle energy policy is the most progressive in Switzerland, it goes farther than the measures recommended by the Confederation” Piller feels. With its slogan Zukunft Basel («Basle Future»), the Rhineland city wants to now link ecology, economy and social justice even more. Planned projects include: 5000 new housing accommodations with reduced energy consumption.

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