A key renewable energy resource remains largely untapped in Switzerland. Used wood accumulated on construction or demolition sites, arising from building renovations or conversions, or generated as packaging or crushed wood waste can be exploited to produce heat and power.
A national survey reveals that nearly 1 million tons of such materials were produced in 2014 but only 644,000 tons were actually used to provide heat or electricity. The additional used wood available could have been harnessed to supply heat, at 80% efficiency, to some 80,000 average households during the September to May cold season and provide enough power for 40,000 average homes.
The survey conducted by the Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research among 567 companies in the construction, waste management, and transport sectors found that roughly one-third of used wood was exported in 2014. Use of this resource domestically to produce heat or power would eliminate the need for numerous shipments of timber abroad, which would save energy, lower costs, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The researchers determined the canton of Bern has the greatest potential for sustainably re-using wood to generate energy. However, so much used wood is already converted into heat and electricity there that the current total could only be increased by 7%. The greatest quantities, in absolute terms, of additional used wood that could be exploited as an energy source are produced in these cantons: Basel Land (a potential increase of 95%), St. Gallen (43%), Solothurn (38%), Lucerne (27%), and Zurich (13%).