Switzerland's electricity consumption (end consumption = domestic consumption after deduction of quantities lost in transmission and distribution) fell 2.0% in 2011 to 58.6 billion kWh (2010: 59.8 billion kWh). In every month consumption of electricity lay between -0.1% and -5.8% less than the previous year. The greatest decline (3.5%) was seen in the fourth quarter, while in the other quarters electricity consumption fell by 0.6% (1st quarter), 2.0% (2nd quarter) and 1.9% (3rd quarter) respectively. Despite lower domestic consumption, significantly more electricity was imported from abroad than in 2010 because there was also a marked decline in domestic electricity production.
The main economic factors driving the use of electricity are economic growth and the development of the population. The gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 1.9% in 2011 (source: State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, SECO) and economic activity weakened in the second half of the year. As yet the Swiss Federal Office for Statistics (BFS) has not published the figures for the development of the population in 2011, however, according to the scenarios drafted by the BFS, Switzerland's population was expected to grow ("mean" population scenario) by about 0.9% per year from 2010 onward.
The distinctly warmer weather also contributed to the lower electricity consumption: according to Meteo Schweiz, 2011 was the warmest year on record since measurements began in 1864. The number of heating days (see table) decreased by 18.1% compared to 2010. According to the analyses of energy consumption by use (BFE/Prognos 2010) almost 10% of the electricity used in Switzerland is employed for heating.
Overall electricity production (domestic production prior to deduction of 2.5 billion kWh consumed by storage pumps) at Switzerland's power plants fell in 2011 by 5.1% to 62.9 billion kWh (2010: 66.3 billion kWh). Domestic generation in each quarter of 2011 was lower than in the corresponding periods in 2010 (-3.8%, -8.3%, -3.2% and -5.0%).
Hydropower plants (fluvial power plants and storage power plants) generated 9.8% less electricity than in the previous year (fluvial power plants -8.1%, storage power plants -11.0%). In summer, production at hydropower plants declined by 10,4% and in both winter quarters by 8.9%.
Electricity production from the five Swiss nuclear power plants rose by 1.4% to 25.6 billion kWh (2010: 25.2 billion kWh); one reason for the increase was a new production record achieved at Leibstadt nuclear power plant. The availability of Swiss nuclear power plants was 89.3% (2010: 88.7%).
Hydropower plants contributed 53.7% to overall electricity production, followed by nuclear power plants (40.7%) and conventional thermal and other power plants (5.6%).
With imports of 83.3 billion kWh and exports of 80.7 billion kWh, an import surplus of 2.6 billion kWh resulted for 2011 (2010: 0.5 billion kWh). Thus, Switzerland recorded its fourth import surplus after those seen in 2005, 2006 and 2010. In the first and fourth quarters on balance Switzerland imported 4.4 billion kWh (2010: 3.7 billion kWh), in the second and third quarters a balance of 1.8 billion kWh was exported (2010: 3.2 billion kWh).
The revenue from electricity exports was 5,689 million Swiss francs (7.07 ct/kWh) while expenditure for imports was 4,671 million Swiss francs (5.62 ct/kWh). Thus, compared to 2010, revenues increased by 12.3% and expenditure by 25%. Switzerland's positive foreign trade balance fell by 23.3% to 1,018 billion Swiss francs (2010: 1,328 billion Swiss francs).