Comparison with an underground cable solution
The planned project approach was compared with the use of a new 380-kilovolt underground cable over the length of both the whole route and the four sections. The comparison was made in accordance with the assessment scheme for transmission lines set out by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE). The comparison indicated that the additional costs for full or partial underground cabling were disproportionately high and only partially lessened the impact on the landscape.
The owners of the Engadin distribution grid, Engadiner Kraftwerke (EKW) and Repower (RE), intend to replace the existing 60-kilovolt grid with a new 110-kilovolt grid. The 60-kilovolt Pradella–Zernez–Bever line, which is to be converted to 110 kilovolts, will be laid in the form of an underground cable; this is in part a compensatory measure for the scheduled upgrade of the 380-kilovolt Pradella – La Punt line. The 220-kilovolt circuit that is also carried on the line between Pradella and Zernez will be removed.
The Pradella – La Punt project was launched in the 1990s with a preliminary environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. In January 2000, the planning work was suspended as a result of the impending market liberalisation, the delays in cross-border line construction projects and the requirements arising from the preliminary EIA process.
In 2007, the project work was restarted with the development of the detailed project and the report on the environmental impact. A year later, the SPTL check, based on the Sectoral Plan for Transmission Lines (SPTL), was carried out at the request of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), the responsible planning authority. In December 2008, the SFOE decreed that, on the basis of the SPTL check already carried out, it was not necessary to conduct an SPTL process. However, an EIA check did have to be carried out.
In 2009 and 2010, the planning submission and the report on the environmental impact were revised in accordance with the requirements of the SFOE. At the end of October 2010, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report was submitted to the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (ESTI) for preliminary checking and approval of the specifications. In February 2011, a visual inspection took place with the cantonal and national authorities under the leadership of the Swiss Federal Office of the Environment (FOEN). The EIA was revised on the basis of this inspection.
In January 2012, information events took place in Zernez in order to provide information to the municipalities, environmental organisations, public and press. Between April 2012 and November 2013, the application documents were fundamentally revised in the light of the SFOE's new assessment scheme for transmission lines as well as various court judgements. Upon submission of the planning dossier to the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations on 9 December 2013, the planning approval procedure (PAP) was initiated. In May 2016, the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations gave its approval to the expansion of the 380-kilovolt line between Pradella and La Punt.
Project progress and milestones
Construction work began in the Upper Engadine in 2017 and continued in the Lower Engadine in the summer of 2018. During this time, the pylon foundations were reinforced and the concrete bases renovated at each pylon location.