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The research programme

The main objectives of energy research in Switzerland are to guarantee a secure and sustainable energy supply, promote Switzerland as a centre of technological research and development, and maintain the high quality of Swiss research. Publicly funded energy research is carried out in line with the federal government energy research concept, which is published every four years by the Swiss Federal Energy Research Commission (CORE).

With respect to geothermal energy, the following objectives have been defined in the federal government energy research concept for 2008 to 2011:

Technical and economic objectives

The market success of geothermal energy sensors and pressure on pricing mean that quality assurance tools are essential. Within the scope of the SwissEnergy programme, these tools are being distributed and instruction is being provided in how to use them. Improvements in terms of efficiency and economic viability are a major goal in the area of geothermal exploration systems.

With respect to hydrothermal sources, the goal is to improve the quality of data in order to reduce the risk of exploration failure. Findings obtained to date are to be integrated into new utilisation projects.

In the area of electricity production from low-temperature geothermal heat, conversion technologies offer significant optimisation potential in terms of efficiency and economic viability.

Reservoir engineering is one of the main challenges in the area of enhanced geothermal systems, while others include modelling, simulation and analysis of micro-seismology. Here it is important to internationally co-ordinate the acquisition and processing of know-how.

The table below depicts the targeted development of geothermal energy in Switzerland on the basis of selected key data:

  2008 2025 2050
Drilling costs for shallow geothermal exploration (CHF per metre) 70 50 35
Electricity production costs (cents per kWh) with enhanced geothermal systems 50 30 <15
Pilot enhanced geothermal systems and hydrothermal sources [-]

0 [1] 

3 [6] 40 [50]

Electricity production (GWh p.a.) from enhanced geothermal systems and hydrothermal sources 

0 450 4'500
Status of technology of enhanced geothermal systems R&D,
pilot facilities
Market introduction Standard systems

Research priorities for the period from 2008 to 2012

Geothermal exploration and geological structures:

  • Procedures for evaluating systems (e.g. response tests, validation of numeric models)
  • Studies of the long-term behaviour of geothermal exploration systems, operational experience, success controls
  • Supplementary studies to improve the efficiency and economic viability of geothermal exploration systems

Hydrothermal sources and tunnel water:

  • Inventory, analysis of available data concerning aquifers with geothermal potential
  • Evaluation of potential project sites
  • Optimisation of low-temperature processes for electricity production
  • Studies concerning new options for utilising low-temperature heat, e.g. from tunnels
  • Evaluation of practical findings

Enhanced geothermal systems:

  • Reservoir engineering: stimulation processes, improvement of mass flow, methods of analysis (micro-seismology), reservoir modelling
  • Scientific evaluation of measurement results from the Deep Heat Mining pilot project in Basel 
  • Systems technology: optimised thermodynamic processes, combination and hybrid systems, innovative efficient pumping methods
  • High-temperature measuring instruments:
  • Processes with direct heat utilisation
  • Evaluation of suitable sites

Related documents

Federal government energy research concept
Reports on Geothermal energy research programme
Reports of programme heads
Contact: Gunter Siddiqi
Last update: 20.08.2012

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