info suisse Spring 2015
Switzerland-Canada Comparisons
March 2015

Energy Costs in Canada and in Switzerland

(Kurt Schl├Ąpfer)
The focus of this article is a comparison of the energy costs for private living and mobility in Canada and in Switzerland. These costs make up a sizable portion in the budget of a family, especially for home owners. Some of these costs are very similar in Canada and in Switzerland, but there are also some interesting differences. As energy and fuel prices vary sharply across Canada, we refer our comparison to costs arising in Ontario.

Reference household for an easy comparison

To compare the energy costs in Canada and in Switzerland, we need to choose a reference household accounting for both the size of the house and the number of residents living in the house. In this comparison we take a detached house with a living area of 250 m2 for a family of four persons. The living area determines the energy costs for heating and cooling, while the family size is relevant for the number and size of electrical appliances used in the household and for the energy required to generate hot water. The energy for lighting depends on both the size of the house and the number of residents.

Home heating

Apart from the size of the house, the amount of energy used for heating depends also on factors such as the climate, the set room temperature and the construction of the house. We assume that our reference house has been built in the last 10 to 20 years and requires an energy for heating of 25,000 kWh per year. This number is not much dependent on the type of heating system. (Only in case of a heat pump, the required energy is much smaller.)

In Ontario, the main heating fuel is natural gas which is used in 76% of households. Based on an annual price of 3.32 cents per kWh, the energy costs to heat our reference house amount to 830 CAD. If the heating system is also configured for cooling, which applies to 74% of all  households in Ontario, the additionally required energy used for cooling is 2,500 kWh per year. This brings the annual costs for heating and cooling to 913 CAD. An interesting fact is, that the gas price in Ontario is enormously fluctuating over the year. As for 2013, the gas price varied between 2.76 cents/kWh and 8.97 cents/kWh.

In Switzerland the most used fuel source for home heating is oil used in 50% of all buildings. Based on an oil price of 100.1 CHF per liter (2013), the annual heating costs for the reference house add up to 2,525 CHF. Cooling, however, is no matter of expense, as Switzerland has much cooler summers than Canada. Natural gas is the second most used fuel in Switzerland, but only with a market share of 15%. As the gas price per kWh is almost identical to the price for heating oil, both fuels lead to the same annual heating costs. In Switzerland, an alternative to the conventional heating systems is the electric heat pump whose energy output is higher than the input required to run the pump. A realistic
assumption for the reference household is based on a ground-sourced heat pump that needs an energy input of 10,000 kWh per year. The resulting annual heating costs are then 1890 CHF. This is not much cheaper as heating with oil, but the oil price is less predictable than the price for electricity. Heating with electricity only is very expensive in Switzerland, and many municipal authorities do not permit it, in order to reduce the electricity consumption.

Water heating

The generation of hot water requires typically 1000 kWh per person and year, i.e. 4000 kWh for our reference household. In Canada, water is usually heated by electricity. Based on an electricity price of 15.2 cents per kWh (in Ontario), the annual costs are 606 CAD. In Switzerland, the hot water boiler is usually integrated in an oil-fired heating system, leading to costs of 556 CHF.

Lighting and electric appliances

A realistic assumption for the reference household is that the electric appliances and lighting require about 5,500 kWh per year. The energy source is electricity, which can be consumed in different ways: In Canada, the consumption can be separated into three periods: on-peak, mid-peak and off-peak.

In in many areas of Switzerland a difference is made between day-time and night-time power. For our comparison we use an average annual rate (see table below).

Total energy costs for the reference household

First, it is important to note that our focus are only on the net energy costs without equipment costs and amortisation. Moreover, it is again emphasized that the below listed fuel prices refer to Ontario, meaning that a cost comparison for other provinces or territories may lead to other figures.

If, for our comparison, only the traditional fuel sources are considered, i.e. natural gas plus electricity in Ontario and heating oil plus electricity in Switzerland, the total energy cost per year for our reference household in Canada is 2352 CAD and 4121 CHF in Switzerland. As the Canadian Dollar is around 10% cheaper than the Swiss Franc, this difference is considerable. The main reason is the very low price for natural gas in Ontario (and generally in North America compared to European countries) making the heating costs about three times cheaper than in Switzerland. The low gas price also explains why electric heating is not widely used in Ontario. Even a heat pump which has the reputation to be very environment-friendly is, from a cost point of view, no attractive alternative to heating with gas.

Fuel costs for private passenger cars

A household in Ontario owns 1.45 cars on average, in Switzerland 1.23. The average annual mileage per car is 16,000 km in Ontario and 12,000 km in Switzerland. Based on these figures, a household in Ontario has to pay annual fuel costs for 23,000 km while a Swiss household is only faced with costs for 14,800 km. Although this is a purely statistical view, it may give a rough estimate for the energy costs arising from a private car in both countries. Interestingly, the total fuel costs are not so different, because the gasoline price in Ontario is much lower than in Switzerland. To the benefit of all car owners, the prices have sharply dropped in the second half of the last year and amount at the beginning of 2015 for regular unleaded gasoline 0.94 CAD per liter in Ontario compared with 1.50 CHF in Switzerland. But in Canada, the gasoline price is more fluctuating than in Switzerland and can, in the same city, considerably vary from one gasoline station to the other or even for the same station between day and night.

An interesting difference exists between Canada and Switzerland regarding the use of diesel fuel. In Switzerland, 24% of all private
passenger vehicles have a diesel-engine, while Canada accounts for just 3%. Diesel fuel is slightly more expensive than gasoline in Switzerland, but is about 5% cheaper in Ontario.

SCCC Corporate Members
  • Zurich Canada
  • Laderach (Canada) Inc.
  • Custom Spring Corporate
  • Rolex Canada Ltd.
  • Lette LLP
  • Roche Canada
  • Swissmar Ltd.
  • Switzerland Tourism
  • Swiss Business Hub
  • Endress + Hauser Canada Ltd
  • Swiss International Air Lines Ltd.
  • Habib Canadian Bank  (Subsidiary of Habib Bank AG Zurich)