The hydropower sector in Switzerland is currently facing numerous challenges. Energy Strategy 2050 aims to increase the share of hydroelectricity generated in Switzerland. At the same time, Swiss water protection legislation stipulates improvements in the protection of the country’s waterways with respect to residual water, fluctuation of water levels, fish migration and bed load transport. In addition, adaptations are necessary to keep pace with changing hydrological conditions and other effects of climate change. Restructuring electricity production requires greater flexibility and additional storage capacity, especially for storage power plants.
The overall objective of the Hydropower research programme is to exploit Switzerland’s hydropower potential from a holistic perspective. Priority is to be given to research projects that aim to open up further potential or continue to exploit known potential or improve the economic or ecological conditions of Switzerland’s waterways.
The following research priorities can be applied in large-scale or small hydropower plants since in many instances the existing capacity is of secondary importance. Explicitly listed topics can only be prioritised inasmuch as they correspond to the overall objectives.
Research priorities for 2021 to 2024
- Adapt to the impacts of climate change, e.g. glacier retreat, increased sedimentation, extreme events;
- Explore options for shifting production from summer to winter and increasing winter production;
- Introduce measures to increase operational flexibility;
- Adapt components and measures (operations, monitoring) to highly flexible operations;
- Options for provision of system and network services;
- Identification of as yet unexploited hydropower potential;
- Refine forecasting models with a view to increasing production and cost-effectiveness;
- Improve the ecological conditions of watercourses, e.g. with respect to fish migration, fluctuation of water levels, sediment management, regulation of residual water;
- Develop decision-making instruments for granting operating licences and expanding existing facilities;
- Update marketing strategies, e.g. through integration in own-consumption collectives or in combination with e-mobility);
- Cost-effective standard technologies.