Based on the estimated mean production level, hydropower still accounted for almost 90% of domestic electricity production at the beginning of the 1970s, but this figure fell to around 60% by 1985 following the entry into operation of Switzerland's nuclear power plants, and now accounts for around 55%. Hydropower remains Switzerland's most important domestic source of renewable energy.
Today there are 579 hydropower plants in Switzerland (power plants with a capacity of at least 300 kilowatts) which produce an average of around 35,913 gigawatt hours (GWh/y) a year. 47.4% of that is produced at run-of-river power plants, 48.2% at storage power plants and approximately 4.4% at pumped storage power plants. Two-thirds of this energy is produced in the mountain cantons of Uri, Graubünden, Ticino and Valais, while Aargau and Bern also generate significant quantities. Around 11% of Switzerland's hydropower generation comes from facilities situated on bodies of water along the country's borders.
The hydropower market is worth around CHF 1.8 billion (basis = delivery from power plant at 5 centimes per kilowatt hour), and is therefore an important segment of Switzerland's energy industry.
In its Energy Strategy 2050 the federal government is seeking to increase average annual electricity production from hydropower to 38,600 gigawatt hours (GWh/y) by 2050 (to 37,400 GWh/y by 2035). In order to exploit the realisable potential, existing power plants are to be retrofitted and expanded, and new hydropower plants built, while taking ecological requirements into account. The federal government wants to promote hydropower utilisation through a variety of measures contained in the first package of measures of the Energy Strategy 2050. The instruments to be used here include cost-covering remuneration for feed-in to the electricity grid for new hydropower plants with an output of up to 10 megawatts (MW), as well as planned investment contributions towards the retrofitting / expansion of hydropower plants with a capacity of up to 10 MW. Various additional measures are planned with the aim of improving the general conditions for hydropower generation (national interest, concept for expanding renewable energies, simplified permit procedures) along with support measures under the SwissEnergy programme.