The expansion of the electricity grid to cover the entire country, together with the availability of low-priced energy from major power plants and competition from combustion engines that were both cheap and flexible, numerous small hydropower plants were closed down in the course of the 20th century.
In 1985, only around 1,000 small hydropower plants (< 10 MW) were still producing electricity, approximately 700 of which had an output of up to 300 kW. In addition there were around 400 facilities with purely mechanical use of power.
In 1990, perhaps prompted by the Chernobyl reactor disaster and the growing threat of climate change the Swiss electorate voted in favour of the incorporation of an energy article into the Federal Constitution. This move led to the adoption of the resolution on energy use in 1991, which paved the way for a new economic basis for renewable energy. Thanks to the introduction in 2008 of remuneration for feed-in at cost, even the smallest hydropower plants can now produce electricity profitably again. We can therefore expect a great deal of the enormous potential to be exploited again in the near future.