Approval processes shall take 5-8 years

Swissgrid is responsible for the project planning and implementation of the transmission lines. The period from the start of a project through to commissioning is currently 15 years on average. In reality, the processes can take up to 30 years. Objections and federal court rulings in a late phase frequently cause a project to be delayed by years.

Politicians, the industry, the state and Swissgrid have recognised that project planning and the approval and legal proceedings must be sped up. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (BFE) has therefore devised measures as part of the «Grid strategy» to accelerate the planning and approval process, including the legal bodies.

Security of supply has top priority for Swissgrid. It is important that public authorities specify a framework which enables security of supply to be guaranteed. This includes processes that last a maximum of 5-8 years. Swissgrid recommends retaining the maximum duration of the approval processes as defined by law.

BFE and Swissgrid have undertaken to cooperate efficiently so that the aim of fast processing can be achieved.

Questions and Answers

Why is acceleration of the procedure necessary?

The Swiss transmission grid will have to be converted and expanded in the coming years to maintain a secure and efficient supply of electricity into the future. In addition to the federal government's Energy Strategy 2050, European scenarios will also be taken into account. Swissgrid identified the essential drivers for grid development while planning the «Strategic Grid 2025». The direct drivers for the renovation and expansion of the Swiss transmission grid are the international association, the connection of new large power plants and the secure supply of downstream grids. For the renovation and expansion of the grid, the «Strategic Grid 2025» includes nine projects initiated by Swissgrid as well as four projects based on public tenders. Without acceleration of the approval process, timely implementation of the renewal and expansion projects is impossible.

How long does the approval process for construction of a transmission line currently take?

At the moment the approval process from the start of a project through to commissioning of a line takes an average of 15 years. However, it is possible for a project to be put back to the very beginning, shortly before the end of the process. This can lead to a duration of up to 30 years for an approval process including all legal court instances (e.g. Chamoson – Chippis). However, the grid connection Linth-Limmern serves as an example that the process may be completed within six years.

Chamoson – Chippis

  • New construction of a 2 x 380-kV and a 220-kV line (35 km)
  • Dismantling of a 2 x 220-kV line

Linth-Limmern pumped storage power plant connection

  • New construction of a 2 x 380-kV connection line to the new Linth-Limmern pumped storage power plant (17 km)
Why is it so important that the processes including construction of the line takes a maximum of 5 - 8 years?

As a national grid company, Swissgrid is especially dependent on good overall conditions and efficient sequence of operations for needs-based grid development. Swissgrid therefore supports the specifications of the grid strategy Limitation of the approval processes is desirable for the following reasons.

  • Agility in planning: Various factors must be taken into account in future grid planning, including the construction of large power plants, the transport of energy or developments in supply and demand trends resulting from new technologies. Swissgrid cannot respond to these developments if the approval processes for the creation of a line takes too long. This can lead to what is, in retrospect, unnecessary grid investment.
  • Commercial reasons: Long processes lead to high costs for the project engineers, as well as for the authorities, and increase the grid costs which are ultimately borne by the end consumer.
What proposals does Swissgrid have for speeding up the processes?

In 2013 Swissgrid submitted proposals to the BFE, including legislative amendments, which – from Swissgrid's perspective – will contribute to an acceleration of the processes. Some of these proposals have been included in the Power Grid Strategy. Swissgrid particularly supports the approach of promoting measures for improving acceptance and transparency of line projects as well as introducing maximum periods for the sectoral plan and planning approval procedure. Swissgrid also welcomes the fact that the BFE can commission parties from outside the administration to conduct planning approval procedures.

Swissgrid is pursuing the goal of working even more efficiently in the project planning of lines and to communicate at an early stage with the affected parties.