University tool calculates carbon footprint of electricity mix

Switzerland produces its electricity mainly with water power and in nuclear plants. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The Swiss university of Geneva has put online a platform that allows consumers to track the variations in the composition of the electricity mix used and to calculate the carbon footprint.

This content was published on December 20, 2022

The university said the tool, called horocarbon, can measure electricity consumption for every hour of the day which is crucial to quantify the environmental impact and thereby create greater transparency.
The virtual meter, which is fed by Swiss and foreign production data, is aimed at citizens as well as scientists and politicians, the university said in a statement on Monday.

It also serves as an interactive tool to assess the environmental impact of personal consumption and that of certain electrical appliances (fridge, computer, dishwasher).

Nuclear and hydro

In Europe, the electricity sector is responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. In Switzerland, where electricity is mainly produced by nuclear and hydroelectric power plants, it accounts for less than 2% of these emissions.

However, a large part of this electricity is exported to neighbouring countries, especially in summer when there is a surplus of electricity.

To meet its needs, Switzerland relies on a mix of domestic and imported energy. The latter accounts for around 11% of annual consumption, and can be much higher in winter.

"The measurement of CO2 emissions from the electricity sector is generally based on the principle of production accounting: these emissions are attributed to the geographical area where they were generated. This approach does not reflect the real carbon impact of a country's consumption, since it does not take into account emissions linked to imports, which are very carbon-intensive in the case of Switzerland," Geneva University's Elliot Romano is quoted in the press release.

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