Apart from studies by Walter Wyssling and David Gugerli and data from the Statistical Yearbook of Switzerland, our tables are based primarily on the publications of the Department of Energy and the Swiss National Committee of the World Energy Conference. Our main source was the “Energy Statistics of Switzerland 1910–1985” (“Energiestatistik der Schweiz 1910–1985” / “Statistique suisse de l’energie 1910–1985”), that was published in 1987 and that provides an excellent overview of the long-term development of the Swiss energy sector. The brochure does not only contain a multitude of informative tables, but also a table of references, as well as an introductory commentary that was obviously directed to a broader audience. In order to provide an orientation to users of the “Historical Statistic” interested in energy data, we will quote several longer passages from that source. It should be noted that most of the tables we used from the “Energy Statistics of Switzerland 1910–1985”, and which were complemented with numbers from the Overall Energy Statistics of 1990, only had data in five year increments until 1955, 1960, 1970, and some even until 1985. (A report of the Committee for Energy on the relevance of fuel imports and domestic fuel production in Switzerland, published in 1953 by the Swiss Water and Energy Monthly, contains tables with annual data for the period of 1910–1952, but they cannot directly be compared to the data in the “Energy Statistics of Switzerland 1910–1985”.) On the other hand, processing of the energy statistics published in the Statistical Yearbook of Switzerland allowed us to construct time series that start in 1931, but continue only to the second half of the 1950s.

Historical Matters

“Since the industrial revolution in the last century, energy has played an increasingly important role in economic and social development. More and more, creation, distribution, and use developed into complex systems, rather than being managed on a micro level. The need to steer energy development into proper directions and to be able to react appropriately in emergencies eventually created a demand for well designed energy statistics.
In Switzerland, such work began early. Electricity production statistics of the prior 40 years were completed by 1928.1 Beginning in October 1930, the Federal Office for Electricity, today the Federal Department of Energy (BEW/OFEN), in cooperation with the Association of Swiss Electric Utilities (VSE/UCS), assumed the task of continuing and expanding the electricity statistics. Trade associations and the Customs Executive Office compiled data on other energy sources with varying levels of detail. However, this data was compiled using different approaches and cannot easily be combined into an overall energy statistic.
In the beginning of the 50s, the World Energy Conference Swiss National Committee (SNK- WEK/CNS-CME), founded in 1924 as the sole link between administration, universities, trade and professional associations, and the economy, began building comprehensive energy statistics of Switzerland and commissioned Motor-Columbus AG (MC) to do the project. Their first publication occurred in 1953 and covered the period between 1910 and 1951.
The energy crisis of 1973/74 caused a demand for more regular and detailed information on the energy supply situation. The BEW/OFEN was therefore charged with establishing and periodically publishing an energy statistic. A first retrospect, of the years 1970–1975, was published in 1976 and has since been followed with annual publications. Prior OECD and IEA work, as well as that by the SNK-WEK/CNS-CME, served as guidance to the BEW/OFEN in discharging its duties; the continuation of the energy uses portion of the statistics was left to the SNK-WEK/ CNS-CME and its consultant, Motor-Columbus.”


“The terminology used in this compilation generally conforms with the World Energy Conference recommendations, a revised edition of which has recently been published.2 In some cases, and especially for the overall energy statistic, however, it was necessary to resort to the older terminology commonly used in Switzerland in order to make comparisons easier.
Energy – the ability of a system to cause external force – has a vast variety of manifestations. In the following there will be no differentiation between energy and the energy carrier. The statistical recording of the flow energy, as well, can be done in many different ways. The first possibility is recording the chain of conversions from natural occurrence all the way to the form required by energy consumers. Here, we differentiate between primary energy, secondary energy, and usable energy. A second approach in imposing a system is based on using commercial checkpoints, which makes energy statistics more accurate than estimates or extrapolations possible in the first place. This is where we are confronted with the terms gross energy and end energy. In practice, there is a mix of both terminology systems, and there has been a shift towards directly measurable quantifiers. Primary energy is energy that has not been processed, such as hydropower, coal, crude oil, natural gas, and wood, as well as refuse and industrial waste. Nuclear energy, created through the heat of reactors, is also counted as primary energy. Primary energy is synonymous with raw energy. Secondary energy is created by the processing of primary energy (or another form of secondary energy) at the expense of a conversion loss. Examples are electricity, gas extracted from coal or oil products, etc.
Usable energy is available to consumers as either light, heat, mechanical work, or chemical energy, and can be created from primary as well as secondary energy. There is a conversion loss that is dependent on the use and the kind of technology used. Examples of usable energy are hot water (after subtracting central system distribution losses), the heat required for cooking food (including the heat absorption of cooking dishes), the light that illuminates a room, or the mechanical energy required to overcome the resistance of a vehicle, e. g. rolling, air, etc. The occasionally-used term ‘serviceable energy’ further limits the uses of the four energy forms in some cases, such as light aimed directly on a work surface.
The overall domestic energy consumption, including domestic conversion losses, is of primary interest in any national energy statistic. This so-called gross consumption consists of domestic primary energy, the balances of imported energy carriers (primary and secondary), and the changes in energy storage.
Energy that is available to consumers for the purpose of creating usable energy is called end energy. It is usually secondary energy, but there are also cases where end energy is primary energy, such as wood. The World Energy Conference uses the (perhaps more appropriate) term operating energy as synonymous with end energy, but it has not caught on yet. Since end energy represents the final step in the commercial cycle, relatively accurate data is available. Difficulty in determining final consumption is limited to those energy carriers that can be stored by consumers. The most important such case is heating oil; surveys are used to determine the extent of its storage. Energy statistics do not cover performance – energy use per time unit – even though it is a major issue in wire-bound, as well as other, energy carriers.3
National energy statistics exclusively concentrate on the primary purpose of energy deployment. For example, heat created by the generation of light, through cooking, or through the running of a motor inside of a building, is not considered, even though it contributes to space heating as free heat and thus becomes ever more important as the quality of heat insulation increases. National energy statistics also do not consider so-called non-tradeable energy. A primary example is solar energy, especially if it is not used through specific means such as collectors or photovoltaic cells. This in clear contrast to the energy balance of an individual building where it is still possible to determine the respective assumptions with acceptable accuracy.
A further factor neglected by an energy balance is the exchange of so-called gray energy with foreign countries, i. e. the energy required for the production of imported and exported goods and thus contained in those goods.”

Measuring Principles

“The use of any one universal measuring principle for all energy carriers is a crutch that always neglects certain aspects, and thus is never fully satisfactory.
According to Swiss practice, all energy carriers contribute to the balance with their heat content (heat equivalency method). This calculation uses the so-called heat value (previously called lower heating value) which describes the amount of heat generated through complete combustion but without re-capturing water vapor condensation heat. The substitution method, used by some countries and certain international organizations, lists electricity as the heat content necessary for its generation in conventional thermal power plants; in Switzerland, with its small number of such plants, this method would not make sense and would result in excessive weighting of hydroelectricity.”


  1. This refers to an article by Wyssling published in the bulletin SEV/VSE. The same author also performed another major analysis in the year 1946 (see under “Sources”).
  2. World Energy Conference: Energy terminology, 2nd edition; London 1986.
  3. In this publication we use a somewhat expanded definition of the term “energy”, which, for example, also includes the megawatt output of hydropower plants.

Units of measure


SOURCE: «Energy» in Ritzmann/Siegenthaler, Historical Statistics of Switzerland, Zürich: Chronos, 1996, 583-587

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The current chapter contains 23 table(s) between 1870 and 1995