The latest update of Nexus-e

New study on the potential role of hydrogen in the future Swiss electricity system.

Hydrogen and e-fuels and their potential role in future energy systems are hotly debated topics. Using The modelling platform Nexus-e, a team of researchers at the Energy Science Center at ETH has looked at the potential role of imported or domestic hydrogen or e-methane for the Swiss electricity system.

One current topic in the Swiss, European and global energy transition is the extent to which synthetic fuels such as hydrogen and its derivatives will play a role in different parts of the energy system The Energy Science Center at ETH has recently studied the role of such synthetic fuels in the Swiss electricity system in a six month research project. The study was commissioned and financed by the private individual Heinz M Buhofer and partnered by Eniwa. Furthermore, the project had an advisory board with members from Empa, Tech Cluster Zug, Verband der Schweizerischen Gasindustrie, Eniwa and Steinmann Consulting.

Using the Nexus-e modeling platform, we have developed three main scenarios for the Swiss electricity system in 2050. These scenarios investigate the potential roles of hydrogen and e-methane for (1) the Swiss electricity supply if they are imported, (2) the seasonal storage of electricity storage within Switzerland and (3) the potential cost of producing hydrogen or e-methane in Switzerland.

Our results provide the following five main conclusions:

  1. Hydrogen and e-methane imports become part of cost-efficient electricity supply in Switzerland only if low import prices can be realized. Electricity generation from peaker power plants using green hydrogen becomes relevant at end-customer prices below 3 CHF/kg-H2 (below 100 CHF/MWh-CH4 for e-methane), including international transport, domestic distribution and storage. At very low prices of 1 CHF/kg-H2, hydrogen could cover up to 12 percent of annual Swiss electricity demand.
  2. Domestically produced hydrogen or e-methane will likely not be used for seasonal electricity storage as a cost-efficient solution. This is especially the case since it has to compete with extensive Swiss hydro dam and storage capacities of about 9 TWh.
  3. Switzerland can produce and supply hydrogen at a price similar to other European countries with production costs ranging from 1.0-6.7 CHF/kg-H2 in 2050. The main determinants are the level of hydrogen demand, power prices, electrolyzer investment costs, and regulation such as grid usage fees. The costs of supplying hydrogen to end-customers, e.g., range from 2.8 to 8.6 CHF/kg-H2 due to added costs for distribution and storage.
  4. Supplying e-methane comes at similar total costs as supplying hydrogen. While e-methane is more expensive than hydrogen to produce, it can be transported and buffered in existing gas infrastructure.
  5. Domestic production of synthetic fuels might be an interesting niche due to “diseconomies of scale”. At low levels of domestic hydrogen production, otherwise curtailed renewable energy and low price electricity can be used to produce hydrogen. At higher levels of hydrogen production, electrolyzers start having a price impact on power markets and hence have to run at hours of higher prices.

The results of this study are intended to provide insight into the role of synthetic fuels in a net-zero emission electricity system in Switzerland but do not serve as forecasts. The modeling of the Swiss electricity system is subject to many assumptions and simplifications and all results are outcomes of computational optimization and scenario results present the option with the lowest total cost of power supply.

A detailed description of the project and its results can be found in the full report (3 MB)

You can also have a look at the detailed scenario results in our interactive webviewer.