Investigation of regional case studies for the efficient exploitation of the Swiss bioenergy potential

Type: Master project (joint project with WSL)

Period: 2018 spring

Project directors: Prof. François Maréchal (IPESE-EPFL), Dr. Oliver Thees (WSL)

Assistants: Dr. Theodoros Damartzis (IPESE-EPFL), Dr. Vanessa Burg (WSL)

Project team (WSL): Matthias Erni, Dr. Gillianne Bowman, Dr. Renato Lemm ​​​​

Project partners:  Manuel Pauli (Biomasse 360, Grünemmental), Sibylle Duttwiler (fahrBiogas Genossenschaft, Blue Bonsai)


For 2050, the Federal Energy Strategy foresees a contribution of 100 Petajoule from bioenergy to the final energy consumption. To meet this ambitious goal, the current energy consumption from biomass needs to be doubled. As part of the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research (SCCER BIOSWEET) the main goal of WSL and EPFL-IPESE is to create a holistic framework for the assessment of the role of biomass in the energy transition (BIOSWEET Phase II, WP5). One of the related planned joint activities is the identification and investigation of case studies, representing appropriate regions of application.


General plan and timetable

The identification and setting up of the case studies will be performed within the framework of a 4-months master thesis, prepared by a 2-months internship. The candidate will spend her/his time between both locations starting at WSL Birmensdorf and alternating one month WSL and EPFL Sion. Also field work will be needed, on site which for basic German and French knowledge is necessary. Practical organization will be discussed with the student.

Based on the collected data he/she will write a master thesis jointly supervised by EPFL and WSL. The aim of the thesis is to utilize the available and collected data to identify patterns, recommendations and possibilities of scaling-up. Preparation work will be conducted by WSL (e.g. elaboration of the general survey, identification of questions). The case studies will be identified on the basis of explicit criteria including relevance and representability. They will then be assessed in terms of bioenergy potential, socio-economic criteria, energy demand vs. production, and environmental impact.


Figure 1. Representative Schedule of the project



Preparation work

First step will be to conduct a general survey on a large number of municipalities regarding their bioenergy status (production and consumption, expectation, concerns, perceived difficulties, willingness to participate to a case study). The set-up of the survey (questions to be asked, address data base) will be done by WSL, which can rely on experience and personal contacts And with the EPFL inputs. Collaboration with relevant public authorities and stakeholders will be established and enhanced for data collection and interpretation. The data evaluation will be conducted by the student during the internship.


Case study identification

A previous WSL study based on biomass availability as well as socio-economic factors has allowed the identification of bioenergy clusters and hotspots at the municipal level (Figure 2). Based on this, different types of municipalities will be chosen depending on the biomass portfolio and quantity.

Figure 2. Biomass clusters and hotspots at municipality level


Choosing municipalities according to these criteria will allow the scaling-up of the findings so that any conclusions and recommendations can be applied to all municipalities of the same type. The municipalities need to be representative enough to serve as examples for the others.

The aim is to focus on around 10 municipalities with a relevant biomass portfolio (cluster). The exact number can be adapted depending on willingness to participate and pertinence of the collected data after contacting a larger number of municipalities.


Table 1. Choice and number of case studies

  Site1 Site 2 Site 3
Cluster A      
Cluster B      
Cluster C      


Factors and aspects to be investigated

For some biomasses it is probable, that another complementary scale that the municipal level will be helpful (e.g. agricultural biomass). Therefore, additional relevant levels of application will be investigated (2-3 projects, e.g. regional: GrünEmmental, farm-scale: blue bonsai).

In the selected 10 case studies (municipalities), the focus will be at:

  • Availability and use of the bioresources in the municipality

  • Local energy production: which installations are already present? (with focus on the biomass)

  • Positive and negative experience in relation to the local bioenergy production (e.g. social acceptance, costs, cantonal regulations)

  • Local energy demand: general consumption of the municipality

  • Municipality (bio)energy planning and vision

  • Link between the resources and the expectations/visions

The exact questions will defined via coordination between EPFL-IPESE and WSL. Finally the factors shall be synthesised and result in recommendations for other similar municipalities.


How to apply

If interested, please take contact with Dr. Theodoros Damartzis, attaching your CV, Cover Letter and transcript of records (Bachelor’s and Master’s).