Zurich is shutting down its natural gas network in whole sections of the city in order to fight climate change and save money. The city’s plan began a decade ago as part of its environmental strategy. Residents are encouraged to install alternatives to natural gas heating and, most recently, Zurich’s city-owned utility company is now shutting down gas supply networks.
“Distance heating networks that make use of renewable or climate-neutral energy have priority over the gas network that is mainly fed with fossil natural gas,” explains Rainer Schöne, a spokesperson for the utility company, Energie 360॰.
“In areas where those distance heating networks exist or will be built, the natural gas network will be shut down.”
This “distance heating” uses excess heat from waste incinerators to warm water that is then pumped to homes through pipes.
In 2011, Zurich made the decision to start shutting down natural gas networks in these areas for economic reasons. But upon its announcement many believed they did not have enough time to change over to renewable sources.
“Originally the announcement of the shutdown included an obviously too short notice period of only a few years,” Schöne says. “This was the reason why the shutdown was postponed by five years. This gives the remaining customers sufficient time to switch.”
The current shutdown is expected to be completed in 2024 with more areas of Zurich set to see the end of natural gas between now and 2040.
Energie 360॰ says it has recently noticed the project has been accelerated by the war in Ukraine. An estimated 47 percent of the natural gas used in the country is imported from Russia and consumers now want that to change.
“After the invasion of Russia in Ukraine we received many questions from customers about how to get rid of Russian gas. Our response is to switch from heating using natural gas to solutions using renewable energy as soon as possible,” Schöne says.
“This supports the current process and will also push the rollout of more distance heating networks and the future shutdowns of the gas network in those areas.”