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).
The priorities of the research programme are as follows:
In Switzerland, buildings account for around half the level of primary energy consumption: 27 percent for heating, air conditioning and hot water, 15 percent for electricity and around 8 percent for processes and maintenance.
The development potential of solar thermal energy is very high, but only the most reliable and efficient solutions can be brought onto the market. In order to find solutions that can compete with fossil energy, quality inspections of systems and materials are necessary, as is research in the areas of solar collectors, storage and distribution.
Swiss research activities in the area of solar thermal energy are often an integral part of international projects carried out by the IEA (International Energy Agency) or European networks. In view of its small market, Switzerland cannot act as a major player, but partnerships are often sought with specialised Swiss competence centres (measurements of solar collectors, solar optics, underground storage, system simulation, nano-coating).
Research primarily focuses on finding solutions to specific questions that arise in the use of solar energy in order to speed up technological development. It mainly focuses on applied aspects, but it also includes basic research to a lesser extent.
The programme's focus is on improving existing or new solar installations in terms of efficiency, capacity, integration, maintenance, associated risks, costs and value. It supports research into technological and systemic innovation.
Research in the area of collectors is of considerable importance: in Rapperswil, more than 50 collectors for use on the global market are examined and analysed each year for the purposes of certification, identifying shortcomings or understanding the way in which they function.
All components of solar installations (connections, pumps, liquids, metals, polymers) are also the subject of research. The aim here is to find new solutions for extending the service life of solar energy systems and improving their efficiency.
Systems research is carried out in order to enhance the end efficiency of collectors or increase the number of solar kilowatt hours for supplementary heating.
The aim of research into heat storage is to increase the storage capacity, either by increasing the capacity for a given volume or by storing a large quantity of solar energy for the longest possible time.
Since research is carried out in close cooperation with Switzerland's solar energy industry, the results can be quickly put into practice.