Water usage levy

The right to produce hydropower through the exclusive use of public bodies of water is granted in the form of a licence (water usage levy). This means that licence holders are required to pay an annual fee to the issuer of the licence (canton, district, municipality). The cantons specify the amount of the levy within the limits laid down in the applicable federal legislation (Article 76, paragraph 4 of the Federal Constitution).

Parliament has increased the official maximum levy several times since the Federal Act on the Use of Hydropower entered into force on 22 December 1916. In 2015 it was increased to 110 Swiss francs per kilowatt (gross output), and this levy is applicable until the end of 2024. In accordance with Article 49, paragraph 1bis of the above Act, the Federal Council is required to submit a proposal to Parliament in good time concerning the amount of the maximum water usage levy to apply after 2025.

Wasserzins - Bild 1

Which maximum water usage levy applies to which category of hydropower plant?

Hydropower plants with a gross output of up to 1 megawatt are exempt from the levy. A linear increase up to the maximum amount stipulated in the Federal Act on the Use of Hydropower is permissible for hydropower plants with a gross output of between 1 and 2 megawatts, while for hydropower plants with a gross output higher than 2 megawatts the maximum amount stipulated in the above Act is applicable.

How is the water usage levy calculated?

The calculation of the annual amount to be paid in Swiss francs by the licence holder to the public licensing authority is based on the facility’s mean gross output in kilowatts and the water usage levy specified by the cantons in Swiss francs per kilowatt (gross output). The mean gross output is calculated on the basis of the usable water volume and water gradient (cf. Federal Ordinance on the Use of Hydropower). The mean gross output of a hydropower plant does not correspond to the installed capacity for electricity production, which is normally higher.

Last modification 25.05.2020

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