Country Report - Switzerland

Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2016

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

The Swiss market for solar thermal systems is decreasing suince 2009 where it peaked to 160'000 m2 installed.  in 2013 by about 15%. 2014 saw only 120'000 m2 installed. The reason is the still growing PV market thanks to the feed-in tariff.  Evacuated collectors keep their smal market share. Unglazed collectors for charging an ice storage can still play in a local niche but depends on 1 or 2 big projects. Heat pump solutions are eating up solar thermal market share.

Typical Applications and Products

About half of the collector market is forced circulation DHW systems with generally 50 litre storage volume per m2 collector area and a collectore area of 4 to 6 m2.  In number of systems, they represent more than 80% of the market. Less than 20% are combisystems, and their market share is decreasing towards heat pump solutions.  Single family homes are still dominant representing about 80% of the installations (DHW mainly and less combisystems than in previous years).

Main Market Drivers

Besides external factors (CO2 tax with a very limited impact and fluctuating oil price), the Swiss solar thermal market is predominantly driven by the good will of private persons and the trust they put into this solution to help the planet and their wallet. This is why the market is primarily on single family houses and also on pre-heating of DHW in dwellings. In addition, the swiss cantons are starting to establish cantonal building regulations requiring the use of renewable energy in new buildings or when renovating the heating system. Vaud makes it mandatory to install solar thermal but few cantons are following arguing than heat pumps have also a great amount of renewable energy. The heat pump market is still booming for new houses. Main reason is that the solution makes a 100% heating solution and no auxiliary is needed with still a 2/3 renewable source.


The Swiss solar thermal industry is relatively small.  About half of the collectors are imported predominantely from European countries, and half originate from domestic production.  A share of 25% is exported: the industry exports products that lead still in 2014 to a nearly balanced import-export statistic. Most products are sold via manufacturers to installers. There is no real dominant manufacturer on the market, three are in equal top position and since years their relative market shares appear stable.


The Swiss solar professional association estimates that there are about 2,000 jobs in the solar thermal market slowly moving to the solar PV market and the heat pump market or wood boilers suppliers


As in the whole building sector, Swiss solar thermal systems are expensive compared to other countries. A DHW system covering about 60% of the needs by solar costs around 9,000 to 12,000 Euros for 6 m2 and 500 l storage installed. These cost are manily driven by installation costs and cost / quality of swiss work. Reducing the total cost is a challenge that we will undertake together with the solar manufacturers from 2016 on.

Other Key Topics

Swiss installations tend to be of high standards corresponding to the demand of the market and better quality comes often at a price. A trend towards lower cost and quality installation is to be tried but it is very difficult to assess the market reaction since swiss people like durable products. Quality controls are to be deployed with low cost monitoring devices coming from pilot projects that showed their benefits.

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings


MINERGIE® is a sustainability brand for new and refurbished buildings. It is mutually supported by the Swiss Confederation, the Swiss Cantons along with Trade and Industry and is registered in Switzerland and around the world.

Comfort is at the heart of MINERGIE® – the comfort of the users living or working in the building. A wholesome level of comfort is made possible by high-grade building envelopes and the continuous renewal of air.

Specific energy consumption is used as the main indicator to quantify the required building quality. In this way, a reliable assessment can be assured. Only the final energy consumed is relevant.  

The MINERGIE® Standard is widely accepted. There are many reasons for this, the most important being the objective oriented approach: If builders and planners – in other words architects and engineers - can achieve the standard, they have complete freedom both in their design and choice of materials and also in their choice of internal and external building structures.

In the meantime, the building sector has developed a wide range of products and services for MINERGIE® buildings. Suppliers include architects and engineers as well as manufacturers of materials, components and systems. The diversity and competition of this market increases quality and lowers costs. The last product is a zero energy building standard, called Minergie A. Minergie ECO is having a small market share in the Minergie market.

Since Minergie is a label for a project, quality controls of built Minergie projects must be undertaken and will be a strategic action of the near future.

Market Size and Trends

Combisystems have never had a big market share and tend to decrease due to the heat pump offer.

Seasonal storage in water tanks is a proven solution in several pilot projects and a few houses or buildings choose it.

The deep trend is air heat pump with some collectors for DHW if locally mandatory.

Another emerging combination is heat pump and ice storage recharged by solar absorbers. A few projects for big buildings (100 to 300 kW) have been recently completed and monitoring of the projet +La Cigale" visible on video on internet famous web site showed interesting and promising results.

Main Market Drivers

Cantonal support schemes for Minergie buildings or the national programme for building renovations (see are key drivers for the interest in energy efficient buildings. CO2 taxes have been recently increased to 84 CHF/t since national objectives were not met. But this has little effect on consumer choices since oil prices have decreased in greater proportions.

Legislation makes solar DHW mandatory in very few cantons.

Some subsidy schemes on low level exist in some cantons for solar collectors (per m2).

All in all the thermal market could rebound if good PVT collectors could be made available.

Employment is the reference. It is the solar pro associations.



There are only estimations not statistically based.

A typical solar building with passive and active will not cost much more than a non solar ones since solar makes only DHW.

Other Key Topics

The integration of solar thermal AND PV on the same roof with the same frame and shape is a topic.

The PVT collectors and the colored collectors are also emerging. Colored thermal collectors should be soon on the market like PV modules demonstrated on some buildings in Switzerland and Denmark using the technology developped in Switzerland since 2001.

R&D Activities

R&D Programmes

A Swiss national R&D programme exists for solar heat and heat storage, for solar industrial heat, and for energy in buildings.

A complete description of the programme for 2013 – 2016 can be found here:

  • The main priorities are for solar thermal collectors to develop new thin layers with specific properties (either for front cover or for absorbers) and to seek new types of collectors based on glass or polymers. For heat storage the research focuses on looking for decentralised but large storage solutions and improving the energy density of storage materials for long term storage. Solar and heat pump systems are also under focus to improve their performances. Ice storage solutions for multi family houses are investigated in several pilot projects.
  • The annual budget is around 1.0 MCHF for each of the three R&D programmes
  • The research programme is accessible to any organisation in Switzerland presenting a project that will be evaluated by the Swiss federal office of energy. See the BFE website!

R&D Infrastructure

R&D Institutions
Institution Type of Institution Relevant Research Areas IEA SHC Involvement Website
SPF Solar energy research center Collector testing, heat storage, systems Task 14, 26,32,44, 54
LESBAT HEIG-VD Solar energy for building research center Combisystems, solar and heat pump systems, LCA Task 26,44, 56
LESO-PB EPFL Building physics research center Collector thin layers with optical properties, integration in buildings Task 41
EMPA Building materials research center Dense heat storage Task 32,44
SUPSI Heat storage for buildings research center Simulation of ground storage
Vela Solaris AG Polysun Simulation software engineering company Simulation of solar and heat pump systems Task 26, 44
Meteotest AG Meteo forecast company Meteonorm data base Task 26, 36, 46
CUEPE UNIGE University energy in buildings research center Monitoring of systems, passive buildings simulation, heat storage Task 41, 46
Sorane sa Private engineering company Simulation of complex systems Task 52
CREM Municipal research center Energy management Task 52

Actual Innovations

The following innovations have been introduced in Switzerland:

  • High temperature flat plate ultra high vacuum collectors developed by a start up company SRB in Geneva. The collectors can easily reach 200 C with still a high efficiency above 35%. After some pilot projects in Switzerland, the company is marketing the collector but the market penetration is limited:
  • Colored glasses but still transparent to soalr radiation have recently been introduced on the market by the new Swissinso start-up company. They produce colored solar glass using a technology developed by the LESO at the Swiss federal institute of technology of Lausanne. Several big buildings will be equiped with this Kromatix technology in the world (Copenhagge, Dubai, Lausanne) and the market is due to increase mainly in the PV sector.
  • The updated Polysun software incorporates solar and heat pumps solutions coupled to IEA SHC Task 44 work and can run online, Other SHC Tasks are being followed carefully by Vela Solaris in order to incorporate in Polysun the latest from international research.
  • Thermochromic layers are in the R&D pipeline at EPF Lausanne. We expect a commercial layer in 3 to 5 years.
  • Solar heating and cooling with a PV driven heat pump is on the market.

Support Framework


The legal basis for the support of R&D and market dissemination measures for energy efficiency and renewable energy is the national law of energy. The CO2 reduction goals of Switzerland have been publicehd (50% reduction in 2030 from 1990 levels). A Strategy 2050 for more renewables in CH in 2050 is being discussed in parliament.

Government Agencies Responsible for Solar Thermal, for Solar Building Activities

In Switzerland, the government is responsible for the funding of R&D, whereas the cantons are responsible for building regulations and subsidies for renewable energy installations. Not all cantons are equal in their solar support.

Most Important Public Support Measure(s) for Solar Thermal and for Solar Buildings

The most important support measures for solar thermal are:

  • Financial support schemes for solar thermal installations provided by the cantons (say 100 to 500 euros per m2 as a general rule)
  • A few cantons have established building regulations where renewables are compulsory
  • Awareness raising provided by the national programme SwissEnergy as well as by the solar energy professionals association Swissolar
  • RD&D funding provided by the Swiss government
  • Quality control for solar thermal components and systems is provided by the SPF institute of the Hochschule Rapperswil
  • energo (efficiency in existing heating installations) can monitor any installations linked to a heating room
  • A pilot project to detect solar installations failure or misactivity is about to deliver a low cost monitorong for tracking solutions together with a web site where every actor can follow a solar installation part of the monitoring programme (willing basis).

Information Resources

National Solar Associations (industry and non-industry)

National Associations on Green/Solar/Sustainable Buildings