The Future of Swiss Hydropower: An Integrated Economic Assessment of Chances, Threats and Solutions


Hydropower (HP) represents a central pillar of Switzerland`s energy system and thereby is a crucial element in obtaining the intended Energy Strategy 2050 targets. HP is envisioned to increase production (which includes the need for retrofitting older plants), is supposed to provide the needed flexibility to accommodate large shares of renewable energy generation, and plays an important role in regional economies and regional development (especially in mountain cantons). At the same time several uncertainties and external factors will have an impact on the current operation and future development of hydropower.

This NRP 70 cluster "The Future of Swiss Hydropower: An Integrated Economic Assessment of Chances, Threats and Solutions" (HP Future) aims at providing a comprehensive economic framework for the evaluation of and its application to assess hydropower operation, hydropower investments and the sustainability perspective on a regional level. The respective main research questions are:

  1. What are the short-term operational options for Swiss hydro plants to cope with the volatile market environment?
  2. What are the long-term investment options for Swiss HP and how can uncertainty be accounted?
  3. What are the regional impacts of these developments from a comprehensive sustainability perspective?

Correspondingly, the cluster is organized in three main Work-Packages (WP) that are complemented by an encompassing structure. The later ensures a close linkage of the work carried out within the individual WPs but also provides an interface to external stakeholders and other research groups. Due to the complexity of the topic and the large number of influences on Swiss HP (covering ecological, technical, economic and social aspects) the project 'HP Future' will require an open framework that ensures mutual exchange between the involved researchers and ongoing research in other projects and groups as well as with stakeholders from industry, politics and society. To ensure this openness while maintaining a close linkage between the three WPs an encompassing structure is added that provides a common starting point, a cross-check on the obtained progress between the first and second stage of the project, and a final consolidation and dissemination of the results.

In 2017 the project has been extended with a fourth WP to address the ongoing issue on the potential reformation of water fees including the ZHAW as fifth project team. WP4 will provide a first quantification of changes in the water fee framework under different market conditions and potential long term effects on investments and local aspects.

Project Workshops

Within the project three workshops are planned to exchange with stakeholders and disseminate the project findings.

Bern, 12.03.2015:

The HP-Future-Team organized a first Kick-Off Workshop on the 'Future of Swiss Hydropower' in March 2015 to evaluate the most pressing issues for Swiss HP.
Details can be found here

Neuchâtel, 28.10.2016

A 2nd Workshop was organized to present and discuss first results and insights.
Details can be found here

Bern, March 2019

A final Workshop will be organized in 2019 to present and discuss the project results and insights and discuss on needed next steps.
Details will follow

Work Package Publications

Workpackage 1:
Workpackage 2:
Workpackage 3:

Related Publications

Conference presentations and posters