The concept addresses not only personal or household energy use, but the total for the whole society, divided by the population.
Two thousand watts is approximately the current world average rate of total energy use. This compares to averages of around 6,000 watts in western Europe, 12,000 watts in the United States, 1,500 watts in China, 1,000 watts in India, 500 watts in South Africa and only 300 watts in Bangladesh. Switzerland itself, currently using an average of around 5,000 watts, was last a 2000-watt society in the 1960s.
It is further envisaged that the use of carbon based fuels would be ultimately cut to no more than 500 watts per person within 50 to 100 years.
The vision was developed in response to concerns about climate change, energy security, and the future availability of energy supplies. It is supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, the Association of Swiss Architects and Engineers, and other bodies.
Current energy use
Breakdown of average energy consumption of 5.1 kW by a Swiss person as of July 2008:
- 1500 watts for living and office space (this includes heat and hot water)
- 1100 watts for food and consumer discretionary (including transportation of these to the point of sale)
- 600 watts for electricity
- 500 watts for automobile travel
- 250 watts for air travel
- 150 watts for public transportation
- 900 watts for public infrastructure
Researchers in Switzerland believe that this vision is achievable, despite a projected 65% increase in economic growth by 2050, by using new low-carbon technologies and techniques.
It is envisaged that achieving the aim of a 2000-watt society will require, amongst other measures, a complete reinvestment in the country's capital assets; refurbishment of the nation's building stock to bring it up to low energy building standards; significant improvements in the efficiency of road transport,aviation and energy-intensive material use; the possible introduction of high-speed maglev trains; the use of renewable energy sources, district heating, microgeneration and related technologies; and a refocusing of research into new priority areas.
The Basel pilot region
Launched in 2001 and located in the metropolitan area of Basel, 'Pilot Region Basel' aims to develop and commercialise some of the technologies involved. The pilot is a partnership between industry, universities, research institutes and the authorities, coordinated by Novatlantis. Participation is not restricted to locally based organisations. The city of Zurich joined the project in 2005 and the canton of Geneva declared its interest in 2008.
Within the pilot region the projects in progress include demonstration buildings constructed to MINERGIE or Passivhaus standards, electricity generation from renewable energy sources, and vehicles using natural gas, hydrogen and biogas. The aim is to put research into practice, seek continuous improvements, and to communicate progress to all interested parties, including the public.