Sharp drop in Swiss energy consumption in 2020 due to pandemic

Bern, 21.06.2021 - In 2020, Switzerland's final energy consumption fell by 10.6% to 747,400 terajoules (TJ) compared to 2019. The main reasons for this are the COVID-19 pandemic and the warmer weather conditions compared to the previous year.

The sharp decrease of 10.6% in final energy consumption compared to 2019 is mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of indicators that determine the energy consumption were strongly affected by the two lockdowns: distance travelled and vehicle movements in passenger transport (air traffic: -64%; road traffic: decrease, but definitive values are not yet available), industrial production (-3.5%) and gross domestic product (real GDP: -2.9%).

Warmer weather conditions compared to the previous year also brought down energy consumption: the number of heating degree days, an important indicator of energy consumption for heating, decreased by 4.4%. In contrast, other factors that determine the long-term growth trend in energy consumption increased slightly in 2020: the permanent resident population (+0.7%), the number of motor vehicles (+1.3%) and the housing stock (increase; detailed figures are not yet available). Efficiency gains and substitution effects, meanwhile, tend to stem the growth in energy consumption. The annual ex-post analyses will provide further information on the factors influencing developments in energy consumption (to be published in October 2020).

Fuel consumption declined sharply

The impact of the pandemic on energy consumption is most evident in the use of fossil fuels. Petrol and diesel consumption fell by 8.1% overall (petrol -11.4%, diesel -5.2%). Sales of jet fuel fell dramatically, by 62.2%. Overall, this was a 23.0% decrease in fuel consumption compared to the level of 2019, a historic drop as shown in Figure 1 (attached). Fossil fuels account for about one third (30.3%) of total final energy consumption.

After having steadily increased since 2014, the consumption of biogenic fuels also fell compared to 2019 (-6.9%). However, their share of total petrol and diesel sales remained unchanged at 3.7%.

Decrease in energy use for heating

The warm weather conditions led to a significant decline in energy consumption for heating purposes. Consumption of extra-light heating oil fell by 10.4% and that of natural gas by 2.0% compared with the previous year. Electricity consumption also decreased (-2.6%). These are unremarkable changes in a historical context (see Figure 2 attached). However, COVID-19 had a clear impact on electricity consumption during the lockdowns (see SFOE media release dated 16 April 2021). The three energy sources mentioned account for more than half of final energy consumption (55.0%).

The use of industrial waste to generate energy decreased by 1.4% (share of final energy consumption: 1.5%). As in the previous year, coal consumption decreased (-3.9%), while use of heavy fuel oil remained at 2019 levels. However, the use of petroleum coke increased (+45.8%). The share of these three energy sources in total final energy consumption is very low (<1%).

Decline in consumption of renewable energies

The warm weather conditions did not affect all renewable energy sources for heating purposes equally. The consumption of energy wood decreased by 3.5%, as did the consumption of district heating (-2.2%). However, the use of solar heat and the use of ambient heat with heat pumps increased (solar: +0.8%; ambient heat: +3.6%). These energy sources represent 11.0% of total final energy consumption (energy wood: 5.3%, ambient temperature: 2.5%, district heating: 2.8%, solar thermal: 0.4%).

The direct use of biogas dropped by 2.6%. When the biogas fed into the natural gas grid (which is statistically accounted for under gas) is considered, there was a slight decrease in biogas consumption (-0.6%). The share of biogas fed into the grid was 1.2% of total gas consumption (2019: 1.1%).

The Swiss Overall Energy Statistics 2020 will be available online from the second half of July 2021 and in printed form at the beginning of August. An initial summary overview is now available (see attachment).

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Swiss Federal Office of Energy