The Swiss Energy Council is a founding member of the World Energy Council, the network of energy leaders for a sustainable energy future. It is a non-governmental organisation that brings together all actors in the energy world including energy consumers’ representation bodies, members of academia, government and industry. All of the Council’s activities are dedicated to the promotion of an internationally based, affordable and reliable supply of energy for Switzerland.
Kurt Rohrbach was born in Biel in 1955, Swiss citizen.
He studied engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (grad. Electricity Engineer ETH). He has occupied various positions within BKW FMB Energy Ltd. since joining in 1980.
In 1992 he was appointed Head of the Energy Division and member of the Executive Board. He was CEO of the company from 2001 till December 2012. From May 2012 till May 2016 he was Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. From 1999 to 2009 he was a member of the Federal Commission for Energy Research. Since 2008 he has been chairing the Swiss Electricity Industry Association (SEIA). Its members stand for over 95% of the Swiss electricity supply. Kurt Rohrbach is a member of the board of various companies in the power supply sector and also a member of the board of economiesuisse, the Swiss Business Federation. Since 2015 he has chaired Canton Berne`s Chamber of Commerce with 3`500 members.
Ben Teufel leads the energy sector activities in TAS of Ernst & Young in Switzerland. He is a professional banker of Deutsche Bank and studied Management & Economics at the universities in Frankfurt, Germany and Zurich, Switzerland. He has multiple years of experience in management consulting for European energy companies as well as operational experience in the field of electric mobility. A selection of his skills include: Financial due diligences and valuations for transactions in the Swiss energy sector, Energy trading, Strategy development and Electric mobility.
Energy in Switzerland
Recent developments and discussions in the Swiss energy sector are closely related to the Energy Strategy 2050. This strategy includes the phasing-out of nuclear power plants, a discussion around the full liberalisation of the electricity and gas sectors, the impact of new technologies onto the current business. The strategy also covers the ongoing negotiations with the European Union (EU) on several political topics, including an electricity agreement between Switzerland and the EU. These factors have changed the economic reality of market players but also increased uncertainty around several questions, which include: what share of the domestic electricity demand will be generated in Switzerland and with which technology? Will the current commodity market price levels be enough to regain profitability with domestic power plants in the long run? What risks come with new technologies? What effect could come from a situation where there will be no agreement with the European Union? At least not short-term?
These topics are very well reflected in the outcome of the current Issues Monitor for Switzerland, which ranks Cyber Threats, EU Cohesion and the options for a new Market Design as the biggest critical uncertainties. Key action priorities in Switzerland have been Renewable Energies, followed by Decentralised Systems and Digitalisation. Most likely, these items will remain the same throughout 2019, if there won’t be a dramatic change in commodity prices or a significant step forward in discussions around market design or EU cohesion.
Keeping in mind recent incidents, cyber security is no longer a challenge limited to less developed countries. Internet and operational technologies are converging and need to be jointly addressed to prevent, detect and cope with critical situations. This is not only relevant for critical infrastructures but also to ensure the functioning of entire businesses.
The unclear pathway towards EU Cohesion, along with potential regulatory changes, is another uncertainty that keeps energy leaders awake at night. A clear regulatory framework that gives Switzerland access (not only physically, but also politically) to the European system is seen as absolutely necessary by many market players. The increasing physical flows through Switzerland from a coupled European grid system have shown first effects already. The market design for the electricity and gas sector is currently being discussed. The Swiss energy market is not fully liberalised and does not grant private consumers the option to choose from different energy suppliers, as they are bound to be connected to their local utility. The effects of liberalisation onto churn rates and the growing competition are keeping many industry leaders awake at night, as the use of modern technology, products/services and platforms could become more relevant. Switzerland relies to a large part on renewable energy resources in the electricity market. The high acceptance of renewable resources underlines essential investments into domestic Solar PV and hydro capacities as well as into solar PV, wind and hydro capacities abroad. The investment activities of Swiss actors in the European market show that this is a key action priority, both from a financial and strategic point of view. Decentralised energy systems are seen as an essential part of the future system. The current regulatory framework already allows for certain decentralised generation and consumption communities that operate locally. As this trend will further materialise, solutions to offer decentralised systems and integrate these communities into the entire distribution grid are being sought. Digitalisation offers a variety of use cases, both for internal applications within companies and external interfaces/services with clients. As these technologies support operational excellence and efficiencies as well as increase convenience for clients, their relevance is greatly accepted and constitutes a key action priority on the agenda of many market participants. This covers developments such as the automation of internal business processes, the creation of digital platforms and the real-time steering/monitoring of devices.
Although some use cases for the action priorities are visible and implemented in Switzerland, the business case behind them still needs to be demonstrated. Crucial for their profitability will be a wide availability of smart devices, an efficient and cost competitive service offering and a large number of clients that will have to see a benefit in it. As for the critical uncertainties, unclear situations in the market design and with the integration into the European market will most likely lead to a postponement of necessary investment decisions.