Switzerland shares best practice in the field of energy

Article, 03.04.2017

Poland has been demonstrating a keen interest in renewable energies and raising people's awareness of climate protection. That is why Switzerland has been supporting ten projects aimed at increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies in Poland over the last five years. It is also the fifth time that Switzerland has hosted a delegation of representatives from Poland interested in finding out more about our energy policy and expertise in this field. Given that Switzerland’s contribution to the EU’s ten new member states will end in June 2017, the most recent visit of the Polish delegation was even more important in terms of maintaining partnerships between the two countries and Switzerland’s activities in Poland.

A group of people walking down some stairs towards the turbines at the hydroelectric power plant in Broc.
The Polish delegation visiting the fully-operational hydroelectric power plant in Broc. SECO

In March 2017 SECO hosted a delegation from Jasło, a town in south-eastern Poland. The group was made up of representatives from the municipalities and educational institutions responsible for implementing a Swiss-supported project for renewable energy sources in the Wisłoka river basin, installing more than 8,000 solar panels on private houses and 105 on public buildings. The aim of the visit was to find out about Swiss best practice in this field, share know-how and foster opportunities for possible future collaborations on environmental issues and renewable energies. 

The delegation visited a number of institutions including the energy management system in Yverdon-les-Bains. This was of particular interest to the Polish mayors and head of project because the commune both produces and distributes electricity itself. This system makes the Yverdon-les-Bains authorities responsive to the needs of its inhabitants and has allowed them to introduce innovative projects such as a community solar plant. It also helps promote these types of environmentally friendly activities better. Maria Lignar, the project head in Poland, considers that Polish municipalities should also be in charge of managing power generation so that energy planning is better adapted to community needs and more climate friendly. In addition, the Polish delegation was interested in finding out more about the Swiss system of incentives such as the subsidy scheme in Montreux with its community fund for sustainable development. Alongside Yverdon, Montreux has been awarded the Cité de l’énergie label, which encourages local inhabitants to invest in renewable energies. 

At the University of Teacher Education Fribourg, the delegation tackled the issue of raising environmental awareness among young people – an aspect of the project that Switzerland has also supported. The teachers were particularly inspired by the way Swiss curriculums mainstream the issue of sustainable development in all subjects and by the examples that were presented during the visit, encouraging them to make similar developments in their own curriculums in Poland. All members of the delegation gave positive feedback about the high level of awareness among Swiss people in terms of environmental protection and their consumption of locally-produced and organic products. Switzerland’s waste disposal system was also highlighted. 

The delegation went on to visit the Electrobroc information centre inside a hydroelectric power plant in Broc, Fribourg, and the Umwelt Arena exhibition centre about energy and environmental issues in Spreitenbach, Aargau. They expressed their interest in establishing an educational centre in Poland in order to raise awareness of environmental problems. The visit ended with a trip to Zurich University where a project to create urban rooftop gardens was presented to the delegation. The ‘green roofs’ project is a futuristic concept that could soon be reproduced in Poland.

Close to completion
Switzerland has been supporting ten projects aimed at increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies in Poland over the last five years. One of the priority regions for the Swiss cohesion contribution programme in Poland is the south-east. Here, about 50 municipalities have benefited from co-financing to purchase and set up solar installations to heat water for around 25,000 households and 210 public buildings. 120 public buildings have also been equipped with solar panels and around 40 geothermal heat pumps. In north-eastern Poland, more than 90 public buildings have been modernised and equipped with solar panels in 24 different locations. 

In Warsaw, the energy efficiency of the city’s heating system has been improved by replacing around 100 district heating stations (20% of the system) with 810 individual stations, benefiting around 50,000 inhabitants. Switzerland’s cohesion contribution programme has also assisted in the construction of a biomass plant in Lębork, an innovative system providing 37% of the town’s heating and electricity for its 35,000 inhabitants. In addition, all projects have included wide-ranging activities to raise public awareness of renewable energies and environmental protection. Switzerland’s cohesion contribution programme in Poland has also contributed to improving air quality and has reduced annual CO2 emissions by 88,000 tonnes.