Non-renewable energy

Non-renewable energy sources dominate Switzerland’s energy mix, hence the country’s heavy reliance on imports to cover its energy needs.

View of the Gösgen nuclear power station taken from a meadow with cows, showing the Alps in the background
The Gösgen nuclear power plant © Allessandro Della Bella

Non-renewables account for 77% of the total energy consumed in Switzerland. Crude oil dominates, with a share of 42% of total consumption, followed by nuclear power (22%) and natural gas (11%). Most of this energy is imported, which means that Switzerland is reliant on other countries for its energy supply. 

The consumption of non-renewable energy has risen steadily since 1990. In response, Switzerland has set itself the target of a 20% reduction in non-renewable energy consumption between 2010 and 2020. This will require Switzerland to reduce its use of oil-based energy. In 1950 oil-based energy accounted for 24% of total energy consumption. By the early 1970s this share had soared to 80%. Since then, it has fallen back to 42%. Switzerland has two oil refineries – ­ one in Cressier (canton of Neuchâtel) and the other in Collombey (canton of Valais) – which process the imported crude oil into finished oil products. 

Switzerland began using nuclear energy in 1969 when the Beznau I nuclear power plant (canton of Aargau) entered into operation. Beznau II, Mühleberg (canton of Bern), Gösgen (canton of Solothurn) and Leibstadt (canton of Aargau) followed soon after. In 2011 the Federal Council decided to phase out nuclear power. As a result, no new power plants will be built and the five existing facilities will be decommissioned at the end of their operating life. 

Switzerland has been using natural gas since the 1970s. Today, roughly 13% of the total energy consumed in Switzerland comes from natural gas. Switzerland is entirely reliant on natural gas imports, which are primarily guaranteed by long-term contracts with EU countries, Norway and Russia. Switzerland is an important transit corridor in the European gas pipeline system and has 12 cross-border feeds into the network.