info-suisse June-July 2014
Environment / Green Tech | Switzerland-Canada Comparisons
June 2014

How "Green" Is Canada Compared to Switzerland?

(Kurt Schläpfer)
In this context, “green” does not mean the color of nature, but the image a country has regarding the use of so called green energy. The term “green energy” has many synonyms. Most often it means that the produced energy is environmentally clean and renewable. Renewable energy is mainly derived from four resources: water, sun, wind and organic material. Renewable resources can be used to produce electricity and biofuels as well as to provide heating. Renewable energy is considered clean, if it does not produce pollutants that are harmful to the environment.


The energy from falling or moving water has been used for thousands of years. Primary advantages of this renewable energy are that no fuel is required and that the running costs are low. However, as each hydropower plant represents a signifi cant impact on nature, plans for a further expansion of this technology mostly fail due to objections from environmental organizations. Canada is the world’s third largest producer of hydroelectricity (after China and Brazil). Both Canada and Switzerland generate the majority of its electricity from hydroelectricity (63 % and 59 % in 2012). Some provinces and territories, such as British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Yukon produce over 90% of their electricity in this manner. As hydropower plants attract industrial structures in natural settings leading to local environmental pollution, this technology does not belong – in the opinion of many environmentalists – to the “very green” energy forms.


Among tourists, Canada is considered to be a “windy” country. This however is a benefi t, if wind is used as energy source. Wind power needs no fuel, generates no emissions and is a truly renewable energy. Environmental concerns are the noise of the turbines and the potential interaction with birds. Often, there is local opposition against wind farms, primarily from residents who are concerned about a perceived “optical pollution of the environment”. Wind energy is a fast growing source of electricity in Canada and contributes more to the national energy production than solar power and biofuels. Canada has about 200 wind farms, among them 88 operating with more than 10 turbines, compared to Switzerland, where only one wind farm has more than 10 turbines. As a result, wind power in Canada produces almost 25 times more electricity than in Switzerland.


Solar power can be used to produce energy for heating or for electricity (using photovoltaic panels). Although Canada has one of the world’s largest photovoltaic power stations with 1.3 million installed panels, solar electricity reaches only an inferior percentage of the totally produced electricity. The percentage value is 33 times smaller than the value attained with wind power. In contrast to this, Switzerland generates more solar power without any large photovoltaic power station. The reason fort this is that many small installations on rooftops add up to an output surpassing the capacity of larger power stations.

Solar energy for thermal heating is mainly produced by means of solar collectors and heat pumps. Due to the rising costs of heating oil, heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular, although the installation of underground pipes is expensive. Switzerland produces about twice as much solar thermal energy than Canada.


Canada is one of the major producers of bioethanol, but far ahead of Switzerland, which produces only 0.3% of the amount produced in Canada. Liquid biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, have been criticized for impacting food prices and causing deforestation.


Tidal power generates electricity by using the energy contained in moving water resulting from high and low tide. There is only one small tidal power station in Canada (located on the Annapolis River immediately upstream from the town of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia). It is the only tidal power station  in North America. According to reports, the project has had mixed results, because increased river bank erosion occurred. The installation is also known as a trap for marine life.


To compare Canada and Switzerland, it is useful to calculate the green energy production per capita. The table below compares 7 criteria. For a thorough comparison, far more criteria would be required, but the list below gives a quick answer to the question raised in the title of this article. The answer is given in terms of “green energy scores” (term invented by the author). As can be seen, there are some considerable differences in certain forms of energy production, but on the whole, both countries show a comparable picture in terms of their efforts to produce green energy.

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)