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In Switzerland wood has been the main energy resource for a long time. At present wood fuel represents about 2.2 percent of all energy needs and four percent of heating needs. In rural areas, it has remained of great importance. Nowadays wood energy is used almost exclusively to produce thermal energy44. Today, the annual growth in Swiss forests is about seven to eight million m3 and the effective exploitation is about 4.5 million m3. The situation is very similar for firewood. The effective annual exploitation is about 1.5 million m3. The short-term potential is estimated at about 2.5 million m3 and the long-term potential is at to 6 million m3. This quantity could be exploited without competition from other more important wood uses. The market for firewood is quite stable, but chipped wood volumes increased by 35% between 1990 and 199545.

The volume of wood fuel currently used represents a third of the potential available each year in Swiss forests and wood industries. A survey among cantonal forest offices and forest owners revealed that forest management seeks to increase the supply of forest energy wood by 40%, thus increasing the importance of Swiss forests as an energy source.



In 1990, the Swiss people voted for a 10-year moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power stations. The Confederation then launched the "Energy 2000" programme that is pursuing specific objectives such as the doubling of wood fuel consumption within the year 2000. Energy 2000 emphasises that of all the RES, wood has the greatest potential at the lower cost. The first National Forest inventory revealed that only two-thirds of the country's sustainable growth is exploited. The main reasons are the very high cost of harvesting and the low price of timber46. Measures taken include extensive public relations work, technical advice and financial support for wood-heating systems.


· ASEB - the Swiss Wood Fuel Association - is in collaboration with the Federal Energy Office, which is implementing the "Energy 2000" scheme. The objective is to double wood-fuel use within 10 years. It is an interface between suppliers and consumers. It also provides studies on boiler emissions. It has approximately 500 members representing all those sectors interested in RE. The ASEB is financed partly by contributions from its members and partly by the Confederation, for its task of co-ordinating the Energy 2000 wood fuel programme.

· VERENUM is a small group of consulting engineers specialising in energy and environment related questions. It aims to replace fossil fuels with RE and devotes its entire activity to wood fuel, focusing on reducing the impact of its use on the environment.

· OFEFP- the Federal Office for Environment, Forestry and Landscape is attached to the Swiss Federal Department for Internal Affairs. It supervises forest management, advises authorities, and centralises statistical information and training.


Ten years ago environmental questions were a major obstacle to the development of woodfuel and a lot of people pictured it as an outdated and expensive technology affording little comfort. At present it is the economic question in particular, which are slowing down the use of wood fuel. Another problem is the ownership structure of Swiss forests, which is rather unfavourable for large-scale forest exploitation and logging operations. As a matter of fact 68.5 percent of the forest is publicly owned, mainly by communes and public corporations and 31.5 percent is privately owned by more than 250,000 owners.

44 A. Keel "Wood energy in Switzerland: recent developments and issues"

45 DGXVII "Wood Fuel - Technologies and Development", Newsletter n°3, May 1998

46 Urs-Beat Brändli "Swiss forests and their potential for energy wood on the basis of data from the National Forest Inventory"

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