The current discussions on EU energy policy and their influence on Switzerland

Bernhard Wüest, project manager for alternative energies at Avenergy Suisse, kindly replied to Eurofuel's questions.

Who is Avenergy Suisse?

We represent as a national association the interests of importers of liquid fuels in Switzerland. We support the development of renewable fuels for heating and mobility.


What influence does the current discussions about new EU directives have in Switzerland?

Because Switzerland is not a member state of the EU, the EU decisions are not binding for us. However, since Switzerland is like an island in the EU, it is of great importance to us what rules apply in neighbouring countries. For example, the EU's decision to ban the sale of vehicles with combustion engines from 2035 has a major signal effect for Switzerland. This ban will not make it easy, or even impossible, to have a different regulation in Switzerland and still import such vehicles after 2035.


What is the situation in the heating sector? For example, do the drafts for the Energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD) have any influence on Swiss policy?

I hope the EPBD helps to influence certain political views in Switzerland somewhat. The EPBD sees the use of renewable liquid fuels as one way to reduce emissions from heating systems. On the other hand the Swiss federal office of Energy just published its Heat Strategy 2050 (French version / German version), which plans to ban the installation of oil and gas heating systems from 2030 at the latest. This will impact both new buildings and the replacement of existing systems. The installation of heating systems using biodiesel or renewable fuels of non biologic origin (RFNBO) or hybrid systems will also no longer be permitted. This strategy is not a law, but if these rules are adopted in the national CO2 law, which will probably be passed next year, this technology ban will have major consequences for the heating market.


What are the reasons for this dismissive attitude towards biofuels and RFNBOs?

In my view, Switzerland lacks a clear strategy for renewable fuels such as biodiesel, hydrogen or RFNBOs. They are not fundamentally against renewable fuels, but they see their use in other sectors that have fewer alternatives. For example, the draft of the CO2 law provides for blending quotas for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in aviation, which are adapted to the EU directives. In road transport, too, blending obligations for renewable fuels are envisaged, which is why it is feared that nothing will be left for the heating sector. Especially since Switzerland has very strict sustainability criteria for production of renewable fuels. For example, only waste-based feedstocks that also meet social criteria are permitted for biodiesel.  


Do the recently published EU delegated acts on RNFBO also have an impact on Switzerland?

Like many associations, we do not see the conditions of the two DAs as optimal, but it is essential for the market ramp-up of RFNBOs that there is finally more clarity for investors. We hope that the urgently needed production facilities will now be pushed ahead quickly so that a functioning market for RFNBOs can emerge in Europe. Switzerland cannot produce all the planned quantities of RFNBOs itself, and will have to rely on import opportunities.


How do you see the future of renewable liquid fuels in Switzerland?

We see it as a sensible and necessary way of quickly avoiding CO2 emissions from various energy sectors that cannot yet be 100% electrified, based on existing infrastructure.

In the mobility sector, there is already a market that is bound to grow due to increasing blending quotas. Here, Switzerland will have to adapt to the conditions of the EU in the long way.

In the heating sector, it has been possible to import FAME as heating oil in Switzerland since 1.3.2023. Unfortunately, this does not apply to HVO. But as long as politicians do not want to use renewable liquid fuels in the heating sector, and their eligibility as renewable energy has not been clarified, it will not be easy to build up a functioning market for this sector. Hopefully, Switzerland will manage to come closer to the EU guidelines and integrate itself into the European market.