The Swiss-U.S. Energy Innovation Days (SUEID) 2018 convened entrepreneurs, governments, academics, and others from Switzerland and the United States for a three-day workshop that explored new technologies, research methods, and collaborative approaches to energy production and use. The meeting, hosted by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, invited experts to share information on the latest in clean tech investment, research, and policy while touring innovation research labs throughout five western Swiss Cantons.
Clean tech innovation and its integration into our evolving energy landscape was a major theme of the conference. The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) – one of Switzerland’s major research institutes and universities – hosted participants at various campuses to highlight their latest research and provide a forum for discussion. Meeting attendees toured several lab incubators that are developing new smart grid concepts, fusion as an energy source, and solar driven energy conversion. The Swiss Innovation Park shared insights and results from some of their recent projects. Of particular note was the Swiss Living Challenge’s NeighborHub, a neighborhood house that utilizes solar energy, water management, waste management, mobility, food, materials, and biodiversity to create a sustainable, zero-net energy ecosystem that can be integrated into various urban settings. The Neighborhub won first place in the Solar Decathlon Competition of 2017 in Denver, Colorado.
Renewable energy was also a major topic of discussion, with a significant focus on Switzerland’s investment in hydropower projects. Hydropower accounts for approximately 57 percent of Switzerland’s domestic electricity production, with 650 hydropower plants across the country. SUEID participants toured the Nant de Drance pumped-storage power station, a 900MW station that will generate approximately 2.5 billion kWh of energy per year – enough to power approximately 625,000 homes. Gevena’s Genilac – an innovative thermal solution that uses lake water from Lake Geneva to cool and heat buildings – was also featured. This ancient- yet modern-concept will reduce electricity consumption by 80 percent and water consumption by 10 percent for cooling systems, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the cooling sector by 80 percent.
Participants also shared ideas and success stories from innovative business and government initiatives in the United States. NASEO Board Member and Director of the Texas State Energy Office, Dub Taylor, attended this year’s SUEID and highlighted ways that Texas is partnering with major research universities, business incubators, and investors to support commercialization of new clean energy technology. Texas now leads the nation in wind energy with 400 percent growth over the last decade, giving it the fifth largest installed wind capacity worldwide. Other U.S. speakers shared insights from unique partnerships and programs designed to spur clean energy investment, such as lessons from California’s Clean Energy Fund, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, and Greentown Labs.
The 2018 SUEID concluded with closing remarks from Edward McMullen, Ambassador of the United States to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The Ambassador touted the United States’ simultaneous economic growth and steady decarbonization over the last decade, citing renewables and clean tech investment as major contributing factors, and emphasized the importance of entrepreneurial investment – a value shared by both Switzerland and the United States. While this meeting showcased the many unique innovations of both countries, it also reinforced the shared structures, outlook, and investment strategies between two of the world’s leading energy economies.