Anxiety about the risk of an electricity shortage and approval for energy independence

The "Perspectives" opinion survey, commissioned by Alpiq and carried out across the country for the first time in 2009, sheds light on the behaviour, concerns and expectations of Swiss electricity consumers. The respondents spontaneously quote shortage of energy as the main risk for the future. In terms of solutions, they greatly overestimate the weight of the new renewable energies. Almost 9 out of 10 Swiss people opt to develop production in Switzerland.

The "Perspectives" (formerly "Eclairages") public opinion survey into the behaviour, concerns and expectations of electricity consumers, which in 2006 and 2008 studied consumers in French-speaking Switzerland, was broadened in 2009 to include all Swiss consumers. Carried out by the Link Institute in Lausanne, the survey involved 1,202 Swiss men and women aged 18 to 74.

Small gestures rather than radical change in behaviour The survey confirms at national level the trend observed in the preceding years in French-speaking Switzerland: the greater the effort required, the less responsibly people behave. While 80-90 % of those questioned say they make small gestures such as adjusting the heating or taking care not to leave a light on unnecessarily, only 50% give preference to public transport for ecological reasons and only 35% say they have chosen a green energy supply for private consumption.

Two Swiss in three are responsible electricity consumers When asked about their interest in and attitude towards energy savings, Swiss consumers were grouped into 6 personality types. Although pro-active inhabitants ("Activists", "Money-Savers" and "Doers") seem to be on the increase in French-speaking Switzerland (2008 : 54% / 2009 : 57%), the better pupils are in German-speaking Switzerland (65%), making the national average for responsible consumers 63%. The three least concerned categories ("Talkers", "Hedonists" and "Devil-May-Care") account for 37% of those surveyed, with men and young people being over-represented.

New renewable gains approval but is greatly overestimated On average, respondents think the share of hydropower is 32% (actually 55 %) and that of nuclear 36% (actually 40 %). They underestimate the real contribution of the latter two energies, in favour of the new renewable energies (11%), which account in fact for less than 2% of current production. This gap between reality and desire becomes larger when consumers project into the future. The Swiss estimate the proportion of new renewable energies in the country’s supply in 2030 at 43%, whereas the objectives of the Swiss Confederation, based on optimistic scenarios, set their contribution at 10%. This lack of understanding about the real potential of the various electricity generating methods definitely reflects a lack of information about the subject. This observation is further confirmed by the quasi ignorance of the survey participants (97%) about the four-pillar energy strategy of the Swiss Federal Council in order to resolve the long term supply needs of the country.

Concerns over the energy shortage risk and desire for energy independence When respondents are asked about the country’s energy situation, over 40 % mention the risk of an electricity shortage. As a remedy, the Swiss declare a preference for developing the new renewable energies (57%), optimising hydropower (17%) and stabilising consumption (13%). Building big new power plants bring up the rear (10%), just ahead of imports (1%). A large majority of Swiss (86%), especially those in the Ticino region (90%), is also in favour of national energy independence.

Opening of the market : majority in favour but many undecided 56% of Swiss say that they are more in favour of the opening of the electricity market compared with 33% who are more opposed. In French-speaking Switzerland, the percentage in favour has declined slightly between 2006 and 2009 (- 5%). When respondents are asked how they would vote for the second stage of market opening, the proportion of people who say they are in favour is reduced (48%) in favour of those who do not know what their decision would be.

Typology of Swiss electricity consumers:

26 % Doers (those who act) They make energy savings pragmatically and every day, but they do not militate actively for the cause; women are over-represented and this group is more likely to be left-wing.

9 % Talkers (talented speakers) They take part in debates, but they do not pay much attention to the facts; there are more of them in German-speaking Switzerland, they are people who are in employment and of average age. This group is more likely to be right-wing.

24 % Money Savers (the thrifty) They make energy savings and are still thinking about how to save more but they do not militate for the cause; they are more widespread in German-speaking Switzerland; women and senior citizens are over-represented.

13 % Activists (the activists) They make energy savings pragmatically and every day, and do militate for the cause. Men and sympathizers of ecological left-wing parties are over-represented.

10 % Devil May Care (“I don’t care what happens after I’m gone”) They do nothing to save energy; men are over-represented, they are the youngest group, tend to be right-wingers or are politically uncommitted.

18 % Hedonists (the hedonists) They think above all of themselves and their comfort, they don’t feel concerned very much by energy savings; they are mainly a young, male section of the population, tending to be close to the right wing.

The brochure "Prospects", which sets out the main results of the opinion survey, is available on the web site www.alpiq.ch