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Thanks to its topography and high levels of annual rainfall, Switzerland has ideal conditions for the use of hydropower. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, hydropower underwent an initial period of expansion, and between 1945 and 1970 it experienced a genuine boom during which numerous new power plants were opened in the lowlands, together with large-scale storage plants.

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 commissioning of Switzerland's nuclear power plants, and is now around 57 %. Hydropower therefore remains Switzerland's most important domestic source of renewable energy.

Today (31.12.2021) there are 682 hydropower plants in Switzerland that each have a capacity of at least 300 kilowatts, and these produce an average of around 37,172 gigawatt hours yearly (GWh/y), 48,3 % of which is produced in run-of-river power plants, 47,5 % in storage power plants and approximately 4,2 % in pumped storage power plants. Roughly 63 % of hydroelectricity are generated in the mountain cantons of Uri, Grisons, Ticino and Valais, while Aargau and Bern also generate significant quantities. Roughly 11 % of Switzerland's hydropower generation comes from facilities situated on bodies of water along the country's borders.

The federal government wants to promote the future use of hydropower to a greater extent through a variety of measures. In order to exploit the realizable potential, existing power plants are to be renovated and expanded while taking the related ecological requirements into account. The instruments to be used here are investment contributions for new installations, renovation and expansion of existing hydropower plants as well as the price market for operators who have to sell electricity on the market below the production costs. In addition, other measures to support hydropower are planned (easing the authorization procedures, investment contribution for planning).



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Statistics of hydroelectric installations in Switzerland

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Specialist staff
Last modification 01.11.2022

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