Spatial coordination – Transmission Lines sectoral plan

Sectoral planning is the federal government’s overlying planning and coordination tool for implementing its spatial planning duties. Projects concerning the construction and expansion of high-voltage power lines at the 220/380 kV level which have a significant spatial and environmental impact normally have to be specified in the Transmission Lines sectoral plan. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) is responsible for processing this sectoral plan in cooperation with the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE), while the Federal Council is responsible for the detailed specifications. Other entities are involved in the sectoral plan procedure, including the support group, which has an important role to play.

Actors Description
Federal Spatial Planning Conference The Federal Spatial Planning Conference is an internal platform of the federal administration for coordination and cooperation concerning federal duties relating to spatial planning. It functions as a forum for debate on fundamental spatial planning issues. All units of the federal administration participate that are entrusted with tasks of relevance to spatial planning. 
Transmission Lines sectoral plan support group

This support group is set up by the SFOE within the framework of the sectoral plan process. It comprises representatives of the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE), the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and other federal authorities that may be affected by the project, plus the Federal Electricity Commission (ElCom), the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations, the involved cantons, national environmental organisations and the applicant (as a rule, Swissgrid AG).

The support group:

  • Evaluates transmission line construction projects based on usage and safety criteria;
  • Identifies consensus and conflict aspects, and coordination potentials;
  • Examines potential solutions to conflicts together with the applicant, and puts forward suggestions for the development of the project;
  • Recommends a planning zone / planning corridor to the SFOE based on its overall evaluation and a comprehensive weighing up of interests.
Cantons The involved cantons are not simply members of the support group, but are also already involved in the preparatory stage. They conclude the coordination agreement with the applicant in which the planning objectives, competencies, timetable for the next steps in the procedure, involvement and information of the communalities, and the procedure for adapting the cantonal planning are regulated. In particular, the cantons have to ensure that, within the scope of the consultation and participation procedure, the involved cantonal, regional and communal authorities, as well as the local population, are given an opportunity to submit their comments and statements of position.
Involved communalities, private individuals, organisations and associations These have the right to submit comments and statements of position within the scope of the consultation and participation procedure concerning the planning zone and planning corridor.
Swissgrid AG (national grid operator) As national grid operator and owner of Switzerland’s transmission network (voltage levels 220/380 kV), Swissgrid AG is responsible for the grid infrastructure and the operation and safety of its systems and installations. The transmission network transports electricity from the producers or from sources outside the country to the regional and local distribution networks, from which the electricity is supplied to consumers.
Swiss Federal Electricity Commission (ElCom) ElCom is Switzerland’s independent national electricity regulator. It is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Electricity Supply Act and the Energy Act, as well as for taking the necessary decisions and pronouncing rulings on disputes and infringements. It supervises all network operators, including Swissgrid. If there are signs of a significant threat to the domestic supply in the medium or long term, ElCom is responsible for proposing suitable measures to the Federal Council. 
Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations The Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations is responsible for supervising and inspecting electrical installations on behalf of the federal government. It ensures that these installations are safe and are planned, constructed and maintained in an environmentally compatible manner. The installations include high, medium and low voltage systems. The Inspectorate performs official duties and is empowered to pronounce rulings. 

Sectoral planning is an official procedure in which the aim is to determine how a given project can best be embedded in the landscape and meet the spatial planning and environmental protection requirements. Technical and economic deliberations are incorporated into the process. Interested parties have the opportunity to submit comments and statements of position within the scope of the consultation and participation procedure. The sectoral planning procedure is implemented in several stages.

Sachplan Übertragungsleitungen (SÜL) - Bild 2 e

The procedure culminates in a detailed plan in which the Federal Council defines a corridor for the transmission line project and specifies the type of transmission technology to be used (overhead lines or underground cables). The detailed plan is binding for the entity submitting the application, as well as for the federal, cantonal and communal authorities. Appeals against decisions taken by the Federal Council within the scope of the sectoral plan procedure are not possible.

Following the conclusion of the sectoral plan procedure, the applicant concerned is authorised to develop the transmission line project for the specified corridor and initiate the planning approval process.

Under certain circumstances, it is possible to waive the implementation of a sectoral plan procedure. Here the SFOE decides on any exemptions from the sectoral plan requirement.

Last modification 30.11.2021

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