Long term energy transformation pathways – ETHZürich

Integrated Scenario Analysis with the Swiss TIMES
energy systems model

Key Messages

Achieving the Swiss energy and climate goals would require scaling up clean energy technologies

The ambition to reach the net-zero CO2 emissions1 objective by 2050 requires a radical transformation of the way energy is supplied, transformed and used. It is necessary to deploy solar PV, electric and hydrogen cars, heat pumps, and energy savings measures on a far greater scale and more rapidly than today. The installed capacity of solar PV power needs to double almost every decade from now to 2050. The private car fleet would need to be mostly based on electric drive trains by 2050, which means one in every three new car registrations must be electric by 2030. The deployment of heat pumps needs to accelerate in the services and residential sectors so that, by 2050, heat pumps would cover close to three quarters of the space and water heating demand in buildings. Also, it would be necessary to reap efficiency gains by rolling out energy saving measures via accelerated renovation.

Electricity – a key energy carrier in reaching net-zero emissions

In achieving the net-zero ambition, the total electricity consumption of the energy end-use sectors (industry, residential, services and transport) increases by 11 TWh in 2050 from 2019 levels. This growth is mainly driven by using electricity to power cars, buses, and trucks. By also accounting the electricity used for producing hydrogen and synthetic e-fuels consumed mainly in transport, the total domestic electricity consumption increases by around 20 TWh between 2019 and 2050. In the stationary sectors, electricity becomes increasingly important as heat pumps are deployed more widely. After 2030, efficiency gains offset increased consumption, and the stationary sectors show a plateauing electricity consumption. Electrification and efficiency improvements enable a reduction of the final energy consumption per capita by 55% in 2050 compared to 2000 levels, slightly higher than the long-term target of the Swiss Energy Strategy.

Electrification alone cannot decarbonise the entire energy system

Hydrogen penetrates industry and mobility sectors for applications where the direct use of electricity is challenging or associated with very high costs. Long-distance public and freight road transport and heavy industry, are hardest to decarbonise and provide prospects for new hydrogen technologies. About 11 TWh of hydrogen (half of it produced via electrolysis) are used directly, or indirectly for producing synthetic fuels, in 2050. Imported biofuels and synthetic fuels of about 10 TWh in total are also needed by 2050, mainly in the long-distance passenger and freight road transport.