Most of Switzerland's transmission lines are more than 40 years old, and many of them no longer meet present-day requirements. These lines were originally designed to transport significantly lower quantities of electricity, most of which was produced at centralised power plants. By contrast, large quantities of electricity are now transported between Switzerland and other countries, and an increasing number of decentralised producers are feeding electricity into the grid from renewable energy sources. Their production levels tend to fluctuate (e.g. in the case of wind energy and photovoltaics), and this makes regulation of the networks more complex.
The network infrastructure will have to be renewed and expanded in the next few years. It will be necessary for networks to be developed more intelligently and turned into "smart grids" with the aid of information and communication technology. Switzerland's integration into the planned trans-European high-voltage networks (supergrid or electricity highways), which is intended to enable efficient electricity transport over large distances, represents another challenge for our country. In view of the pan-European expansion of the generation capacities of fluctuating renewable energy forms (notably wind and photovoltaics), for which the production sites are often a long way away from the centres of consumption, this aspect will become increasingly important in the future.
National network operator Swissgrid is responsible for the safe operation of Switzerland's ultra-high-voltage network. In accordance with the Federal Electricity Supply Act, ownership of this 6,700-kilometre network is to be transferred to Swissgrid by no later than 1 January 2013.