The round table was the third staged by the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) since August 2020, when the department first brought together participants to discuss the prospects for Swiss hydropower against the background of the transition to carbon-neutral status.
Among the participants were major energy companies and environmental groups, including Axpo – Switzerland’s largest supplier of renewable energy – as well as the Swiss Fishing Federation, the World Wildlife Fund and Pro Natura, the country’s oldest nature preservation organisation.
The round table selected 15 of 33 potential projects considered the most effective, not only in terms of production and storage capacity but also in terms of biodiversity and minimum effect on the environment. Of the 15 hydro stations, eight are in Canton Valais, three in Berne, two in Graubuenden and one each in Ticino and Uri.
Each of the proposed construction projects must be submitted to a procedure to secure agreement at a regional level.
Hydropower is the most widely used source of energy in Switzerland. In 2020, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), hydropower accounted for 58 % of total power generation (41 of 71.5 TWh), whereas the share of nuclear power stations totalled 34 % (24 TWh) and all other forms of power generation – 8 % (6.5 TWh).
In 2017, Swiss voters approved in a referendum an energy strategy up to 2050 calling for a gradual abandonment of nuclear power. Four nuclear reactors are now in operation in Switzerland, according to IAEA figures, all brought on stream between 1969 and 1984.
Among the other forms of power generation, solar panels are the most widespread, accounting for 4 % of the total. In the period from 2011 to 2020, installed solar power capacity increased more than tenfold from 223 MW to 3,118 MW, according to figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).