Energy self-sufficient households with photovoltaics and electric vehicles are feasible in temperate climate

Ursin Gstöhl*, Stefan Pfenninger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The idea that households produce and consume their own energy, that is, energy self-sufficiency at a very local level, captures the popular imagination and commands political support across parts of Europe. This paper investigates the technical and economic feasibility of household energy self-sufficiency in Switzerland, which can be seen as representative for other regions with a temperate climate, by 2050. We compare sixteen cases that vary across four dimensions: household type, building type, electricity demand reduction, and passenger vehicle use patterns. We assume that photovoltaic (PV) electricity supplies all energy, which implies a complete shift away from fossil fuel based heating and internal combustion engine vehicles. Two energy storage technologies are considered: short-term storage in lithium-ion batteries and long-term storage with hydrogen, requiring an electrolyzer, storage tank, and a fuel cell for electricity conversion. We examine technological feasibility and total system costs for self-sufficient households compared to base cases that rely on fossil fuels and the existing power grid. PV efficiency and available rooftop/facade area are most critical with respect to the overall energy balance. Single-family dwellings with profound electricity demand reduction and urban mobility patterns achieve self-sufficiency most easily. Multi-family buildings with conventional electricity demand and rural mobility patterns can only be self-sufficient if PV efficiency increases, and all of the roof plus most of the facade can be covered with PV. All self-sufficient cases are technically feasible but more expensive than fully electrified grid-connected cases. Self-sufficiency may even become cost-competitive in some cases depending on storage and fossil fuel prices. Thus, if political measures improve their financial attractiveness or individuals decide to shoulder the necessary investments, self-sufficient buildings may start to become increasingly prevalent.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0227368
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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