Link zu WSL Hauptseite Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL
Duration: 2014 - 2016

The role of biomass in Switzerland’s future energy system

Assessment of domestic biomass resources, while distinguishing between different potentials and energy forms

Background and overall context

As part of the Energy Strategy 2050 the Swiss government and parliament decided to phase out the production of nuclear power and to increase the support for energy research in Switzerland.

In collaboration with the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) established seven inter-university Swiss Competence Centers for Energy Research (SCCERs). One of them is SCCER BIOSWEET (BIOmass for SWiss EnErgy fuTure), which covers the research on biomass-based energy production.

SCCER BIOSWEET has the vision to contribute with additional 100 petajoules per year to the Swiss Energy Transition 2050. Therefore woody biomass, bio wastes and manure, as well as the emerging potential of algae are seen to contribute 33 petajoules each.

Within the framework of SCCER BIOSWEET three Work Packages (WP) were defined: WP1 focuses on biochemical processes, WP2 on thermochemical technologies, and WP3 aims at assessing the potential and role of biomass on the way to the Energy Transition 2050. The following project outline has been elaborated within the frame of the WP3.

With the discussion on the Swiss Energy Transition pressure on natural resources is expected to increase. At WSL different projects concerning renewable energies and especially energy wood  (mainly from forests) have already been conducted or are currently in progress. The project “Renewable Energies Aargau” (EEA) gave an overview of all renewable energy sources, technology types, as well as forms of energy (electricity, heat, fuel) producible by the relevant resource for the practical perimeter of the canton of Aargau.  These studies gave a better understanding of the roles of different resource types, providing a solid base for specific and more detailed studies within SCCER BIOSWEET.


The aim of this study is to provide a comprehensive overview of all domestic biomass resources comprising e.g. their characteristics, availability, locations, usages and estimated costs. A Geographic Information System (GIS) will facilitate the numerical simulation and take into account the spatial distribution of biomass sources. Existing bioenergy conversion plants will be included to completely illustrate the current bio-energy system. Finally, the strengths and limits of bioenergy within the entire domestic energy system on the way to the Energy Transition 2050 will be appraised.

The approach mainly consists of four steps, which are explained in the following section.
a)    Investigation and characterization of all domestic biomass types
b)    Distinction of different potentials
c)    Investigation of the spatial distribution and overall assessment
d)    Definition and simulation  of scenarios for two different time horizons in Switzerland

Project details

a)    Investigation and characterization of all domestic biomass resources

In order to provide a comprehensive overview on all domestic bio-energy resources in Switzerland, the actual status, including different characteristics, locations, availability, potentials, usages and synergies has to be assessed.

Woody and non-woody biomass resources assessed in the study:

b)    Distinction of different potentials

The sustainable potential of biomass in the future energy production not only depends on the total quantity available (theoretical potential) but also on a range of technical, political, economic, legal, and environmental constraints. Finally, the already energetically used potential can be subtracted, showing the remaining additional sustainable bioenergy potential.

c)    Investigation of the spatial distribution and overall assessment

For whole Switzerland the current and future domestic biomass availability, potentials and usage will be illustrated on a regional level. Regional opportunities, identification of competition, trade-offs and possible synergies between the biomass sources will be shown.

d)    Definition and simulation  of scenarios for two different time horizons in Switzerland

Different spatial and temporal scenarios will be defined to evaluate the role of the respective biomass types in the future Swiss energy system. The scenarios will be specified after the completion of the biomass potential assessment (March 2016).


Main results of the project are the reliable systematic and integral assessment of the current domestic bioenergy system, and the provision of highly relevant scenarios for different time horizons. Both serve as a scientific base for decision making concerning the optimal usage of Swiss biomass for energy purposes in Switzerland, thereby facilitating the implementation of the Energy Strategy 2050.

Additionally, our study will reveal regional opportunities and contribute to reduce costs and increase efficiency, based on local biomass availability, existing bio-energy conversion sites, competition, trade-offs and synergies. Further, stakeholders of other energy sectors get a fundament for exploring opportunities, such as the possibility of an optimized cascade usage or the potential to stabilize the national power grid.


Non-woody biomass:     Vanessa Burg,, 044 739 23 76
Woody biomass:     Matthias Erni,, 044 739 21 24

Keywords energy transition, biomass, potentials, renewable energy, Switzerland/cantons