Small-scale hydropower plants have been around for a long time in Switzerland. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were already around 7,000 in operation. But with the advent of low-cost electricity from large-scale power plants, many of these ceased production.
Today there are more than 1400 small-scale hydropower plants in operation, with an installed capacity of approximately 1000 MW and an output of yearly 4100 GWh. They account for around 10 per cent of Switzerland's total hydropower production.
Electricity production in small-scale hydropower plants is attractive from both an economical and an ecological point of view, and an expansion of output is perfectly feasible, as long as ecological aspects are duly taken into account. The expansion potential is estimated at around 770 GWh each year. Technological innovations and measures to lessen environmental impacts make small-scale hydropower plants an inexpensive energy source that provides renewable energy on an independent basis.
In addition to small-scale hydropower plants in rivers and streams, it is now possible to use other sources, e.g. excess pressure in drinking water systems.