Why, at the current rate, if we don’t change scale, it will take another 311 years to reach the full potential of solar electricity production in Geneva?Posted on Oct 27, 2022
Communication specialist CLIMACT
Let’s discover Genèvoltaïque, a project that aims to reverse this trend. Interview with Jean-Pascal Gillig, Business and Section Manager, WWF Geneva
WWF is the initiator of a new project called "Genèvoltaïque+", in partnership with CLIMACT, DSS+ and Terrasses sans frontières. What is it about?
JPG: In Geneva, the conditions for an energy transition are met: the price of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has dropped by 80%, the return on investment has never been so low, the buy-back price from SIG is quite good, there are no technical constraints. Administrative procedures have been simplified, and the framework conditions and subsidies have improved. So why are PVs slow to "bloom" on Geneva's roofs?
This was the starting point of Genèvoltaïque+. With this project, we want to understand the current obstacles, identify key success models, mobilize the collective intelligence of the industry players and support five major property owners to finally boost PV on the roofs of Geneva.
To better reconcile the challenges of the climate crisis and biodiversity, Genèvoltaïque+ also aims to grow real flowers on Geneva's roofs. Therefore, we have joined forces with Terrasses sans frontières and HEPIA to promote PV and biosolar (PV + vegetation).
As a nature protection organization, why did the WWF now get involved in the promotion of solar energy?
JPG: In Switzerland, solar energy is the solution of choice to develop energy supply in an environmentally sustainable way. Infinitely reusable, abundant, and environmentally friendly, it is the best solution for tackling the climate and biodiversity crises while winning on both sides.
Sobriety and efficiency are certainly the keystone of the energy transition, but we cannot do without energy. Using existing buildings and infrastructure to preserve nature and the landscape is essential and the potential is still enormous. Almost one third of Switzerland's energy consumption could easily be covered by solar energy. However, today, its production is not up to the climate challenges.
According to a study we conducted in 2020 with Swiss Energy Planning, supported by SuisseEnergie and the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), Switzerland will only have fully exploited its potential for rooftop solar power production in 262 years, and in 311 years for the canton of Geneva. Since then, the canton has set ambitious energy targets, including the goal of producing 350 GWh of solar power by 2030.
To achieve this, it will be necessary to install 40 MWp/year, i.e. 5x more than in 2020, and this, every year. We must therefore clearly change scale and stop procrastinating.
The WWF is generally known as an organization that lobbies against certain projects that it considers to be contrary to Swiss climate interests. How is WWF's role in this project fundamentally different?
JPG: WWF's historical lever of action is political, but the urgency of acting on the ground led us to question our positioning and the expertise we could bring to projects of this type. One of the key factors of success in triggering ambitious projects is the establishment of a climate of trust between the different actors. The WWF wants to act more as a facilitator, valuing the fact that it is perceived as a civil society actor, independent of both public institutions and commercial actors.
Genèvoltaïque+ aims to accelerate rooftop solar. Who does this project target and how will it be implemented?
JPG: Genèvoltaïque+ is aimed at owners who do not benefit from any specific incentive from the State, with roofs offering potential between 30 and 100 kWp. In this range of potential, we typically find industrial or administrative buildings but also large rental buildings or condominiums.
To get these large property owners on board, Genèvoltaïque+ proposes to tackle the recurring obstacles that we have identified: 1) remove false beliefs and fill a lack of knowledge, 2) create confidence by breaking down barriers, exchanging information and collaborating more, and 3) fight procrastination by triggering the process through targeted support.
Owners commit to Genèvoltaïque+ on a voluntary basis. This aspect is essential to encourage as many people as possible. By offering homeowners viable solutions and a framework of trust, it creates the desire to "do what your neighbor does". Owners can be supervised by a diversity of complementary actors from the professional, academic (including CLIMACT) and state sectors, to guarantee quality expertise and a framework of trust. And finally, the proposed approach allows owners to benefit from a tailor-made support. This support includes a screening of the solar and biosolar potential (PV + vegetation) of the building stock, specifications allowing the bidding for a defined number of buildings, objective information and experience sharing with other owners and actors of the photovoltaic sector, as well as a communication on the realized projects.
What concrete results do you hope to achieve?
JPG: We are proposing a process to support around 5 large property owners - selected for the size of their portfolio and their motivation - with the aim of finding viable models that can be directly applied to a selection of buildings in their portfolio.
We want to work with these property owners so that with the solutions identified, they can make the choice to equip a portion of their building stock with solar photovoltaic and biosolar within the next 5 years and publicly communicate these quantitative goals. If this approach is successful, the experience and the solutions used can easily be replicated later with other owners.
Jean-Pascal Gillig represents the WWF regional secretariat and is responsible for the Geneva section. His mission is to develop regional and local projects, to write position papers and objections and to participate in various commissions.
To learn more about the project.
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