Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech Zurich, Switzerland

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Zurich is one of the most important cities of Switzerland. Zurich has helped to make Switzerland one of the leaders on cleantech investment and energy efficiency around the globe. Due to the waste management programs, sustainable transportation projects, renewable energy advances, and green buildings, Switzerland placed number two on the 2010 Environmental Performance Index.

1) Switzerland has set itself apart as a global hub of cleantech finance and Zurich is the capital of that hub. Zurich financial companies play key leadership roles in multiple sustainable/cleantech financial sectors. Whether investing in public companies or private venture Zurich have a wide range of investment firms that are international leaders in cleantech including Sustainable Asset Management, Mountain Cleantech, Emerald Ventures, UBS, Credit Suisse, ZKB, Susi Partners and Vontobel.

2) Swiss Re. Swiss Re in Zurich is committed to sustainable energy consumption. They have currently been engaged in climate change studies and sponsoring various research projects. Because the climate plays a role in the reinsurance business, Swiss Re has come up with risk management solutions for climate related risks. Due to this study, Swiss Re has taken measures to decrease its company’s own carbon footprint. Swiss Re became the first company for financial services to commit to greenhouse gas neutrality. Their goal was to reduce carbon emissions by 30% for every employee. Swiss Re created the COYou2 program to provide their employees with subsidies to change their CO2 consumption patterns. They are also committed to using renewable energy sources.

3) Zurich based Gaia Global SA provides innovative sustainability solutions addressing both private and public organizations. It has strong expertise in the areas of climate change, sustainable energy, risk management, environment and innovation. Gaia identifies and integrates clean technology solutions into business models. Gaia has been successful to build bridges to emerging and developing country markets for adapted technology and service development for Swiss companies. A strength is Gaia’s active role in public-private partnerships among other with multilateral banks in Latcam and Africa. Gaia Global is part of Gaia Group www.gaia.fi which operates globally through its offices in Finland, Switzerland and China.

4) Zurich is home to Swiss Cleantech. Swiss Cleantech is a Cleantech Business Association. It was founded in autumn 2009 by the Foundation for Global Sustainability (FFGS, www.ffgs.org). A number of companies which think and act in a sustainable manner contacted FFGS and voiced their need for effective political support. As a result, swisscleantech now represents its members’ political interests. The term Cleantech encompasses all industries. It fosters Eco-Innovation and addresses all companies which apply the principles of sustainable development (products, services, processes). Swiss Cleantech is also one of the founders of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association.

5) Swiss Village Abu Dhabi. Set up through collaboration between Abu Dhabi and the Swiss Embassy, the Swiss Sustainability Initiative was set up in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, the global ecocity project. Swiss Village is set up with a number of research laboratories, offices, manufacturing facilities, business hub, and a number of other necessities. Swiss Village participates in the overall Masdar Initiative to create sustainable energy sources. Swiss Village uses a number of technologies at its disposal to assist in achieving the research and development of renewable energy technologies that can be created and exported throughout the world.

6) Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. To increase cleantech awareness for the future, the Institute of Energy Technology focuses on sustainable energy systems that are reliable, secure, socially compatible, economically viable, and environmentally friendly. There are numerous energy policy and activities that resume at ETH Zurich. They investigate the numerous dimensions of the energy challenge, such as transportation, electricity, heating, energy storage, world economic demands, and security of supply, global warming and come up with a coherent strategy development plan. (You could also include Eawag, www.eawag.ch, and Empa, www.empa.ch, which are connected to the ETH; the research area in Zurich is very strong!) I also guess that you should mention the eawag and empa, eventually also the Climate KIC program (http://www.climate-kic.org/networks/nodes/)

7) The Swiss Energy Program. In 2001, the Swiss Energy Program was launched to create a “platform for an intelligent energy policy.” The program is aimed at supporting energy efficiency as well as the use of renewable energy. The Swiss Energy program realizes that this means there needs to be cooperation between the federal government, municipalities, trade and industry partners, consumer and environmental organizations, as well as private and public agencies. Through its work, it has been able to reduce overall CO2 emissions by 2.8 million tonnes, and lower fossil fuel consumption by 7.9%. The Swiss Energy Program has also assisted in lowering total energy consumption by 4.7% and increased the amount of renewable energy that is used throughout the country. (2000 WATT-Gesellschaft (http://www.stadt-zuerich.ch/portal/en/index/portraet_der_stadt_zuerich/2000-watt_society.html)

8 ) CO2 Act. Created by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, the CO2 Act came into effect in 2000 and forms one of the foundations for the climate policy of Switzerland. The overall mission of the CO2 Act is to reduce the total amount of CO2 emissions that are the result of fossil fuel usage by 10% of what the 1990 level was. This would reduce the percentage of heating fuels to 15 and motor fuels to eight. This act is done mainly through measures taken voluntarily by private individuals and companies. However, legislation has been enacted by the federal government to introduce a CO2 fee is voluntary measures do not succeed in lowering CO2 emissions. The only companies that would be exempt are those that are taking a large venture to reduce their CO2 emissions and meet a decided target.

9) Hydropower Legislation. Due in large part to its large amount of annual rainfall and topography, Switzerland has proven ideal conditions for hydropower. There are currently 543 hydropower stations and currently makes up a large part of the market. The Federal government in Zurich has taken many measures to promote the use of hydropower in the future. The Federal Hydropower Act provides all the provisions that govern hydropower utilization. Through legislation, the government is hoping to increase the usage of hydropower to become one of the main forms of sustainable, renewable energy that can be utilized throughout the country. More than 50% of the electricity production is made with hydropower.

10) ABB. ABB is one of the leading global powers that provide technologies in power and automation that allows industry and utility customers the ability to maximize their overall performance while decreasing the total impact to the environment. They produce products and solutions for electrical power, power system, discrete automation and motion, low voltage, and process automation. ABB assists in creating technologies that will make companies more competitive while keeping the environment safe. They balance social, economic, and environmental objectives and integrate these objectives indo the daily decisions of businesses.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at shawn@watershedcapital.com

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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