Landowners

Swissgrid and its contracted service providers are in daily contact with landowners. For example, to discuss planned building projects, the suppression of trees, the inspection and maintenance of lines or fault resolution. By signing an easement contract, landowners grant Swissgrid the right to build a line on their land and to access and drive onto that land for the purposes of maintaining the line. In total there are around 55,000 easement contracts in Switzerland.

Line routes for transmission lines sometimes cross land that is the property of private owners. The owners are compensated for the use of their land.

An easement is a right granted by a landowner for their land to be affected or used in a certain way. In terms of Swissgrid installations, the following easements are generally established:

  • transit rights for lines (including rights for pylons and/or supporting structures);
  • transit rights for third-party data;
  • suppression of plants and trees in the line area (planting restrictions);
  • right to drive, right of way and right of access for maintenance of the installations;
  • construction and usage restrictions in the line area;
  • construction bans.

An easement contract outlines the rights and obligations of both parties to the contract. By concluding an easement contract, the landowner undertakes to make available their land for the operation and maintenance of the line, in the scope as stated in the contract and for the agreed amount of time. In return, the landowner receives remuneration as defined in the contract.

Only a high level of maintenance allows the transmission system to function reliably. Substations and power lines need to be inspected, maintained and, where necessary, repaired on a regular basis. It is also important to restrict the growth of plants and trees in the line area. Maintenance and repairs to Swissgrid installations necessitate access to the lines and substations.

Swissgrid is responsible for planning the maintenance of its facilities. It determines what maintenance needs to be carried out where and at what point in time. Work is planned and contracted out from the six regional bases in Laufenburg, Prilly, Castione, Landquart, Ostermundigen and Uznach. The work is performed on site by specialist external partners.

Maintenance in practice

 Meet François Renaud
 Repairing Lauerz
Renovation Sils i.D. – Soazza (San Bernardino)
 Transformer transport
 Avegno – Cavergno 220 kV line

The existing transmission grid needs to be updated and converted. In its report «Strategic Grid 2025» Swissgrid highlights the transmission lines in Switzerland that need to be updated or expanded by 2025.

Line routes are defined for the construction of transmission lines, and these sometimes cross land that is the property of private owners. Construction of a line may require several hundred individual easements. Consequently, before submitting a potential construction project to the planning approval procedure, easement contracts are concluded with all of the landowners affected.

If you would like to find out where building projects are being planned and realised in Switzerland, and whether you are affected, visit the «Grid projects» page.

Questions about easement contracts

Who can answer questions about easement contracts?

If you have any questions about easement contracts, please write to us by post, use the contact form or call +41 848 010 020.

What is the process in the event of a change of owner?

The landowner that was previously party to the easement contract must transfer the contract and all of its component obligations to their legal successor. If land that is encumbered with a line easement is sold, the seller must transfer the easement contract to the purchaser. In the case of an inheritance, the obligations of the deceased landowner carry over to the community of heirs without further ado.

To avoid any misunderstandings and unnecessary effort, any change of owner must be registered with Swissgrid. Please contact us by post, contact form or call +41 848 010 020.

Who can help if I cannot find any documentation for an existing easement?

Most easements are not entered into the land register because they are valid without a land register entry once the contract is concluded and the line constructed. If you are unable to locate any documentation, please contact us for assistance. We will provide you with a copy of the contract.

You can contact us by post, via contact form or call +41 848 010 020.

Basic principles

What is an easement?

An easement is a right granted by a landowner for their land to be affected or used in a certain way (see Article 730 of the Swiss Civil Code). In terms of Swissgrid installations, the following easements are generally established:

  • transit rights for lines (including rights for pylons and/or supporting structures);
  • transit rights for third-party data;
  • suppression of plants and trees in the line area (planting restrictions);
  • right to drive, right of way and right of access for maintenance of the installations;
  • construction and usage restrictions in the line area;
  • construction bans.
What provisions does an easement contract contain?

An easement contract outlines the rights and obligations of both parties to the contract. By concluding an easement contract, the landowner undertakes to make available their land for the operation and maintenance of the line, in the scope as stated in the contract and for the agreed amount of time. In return, the landowner receives remuneration as defined in the contract.

What is easement management?

Easement management refers to the task of managing every aspect of easements, including contract renewals, landowner remuneration, the provision of information, communication with landowners, and the administration and handling of all legal matters relating to these contracts.

What happens if a landowner is unwilling to sign an easement contract?

Swissgrid is committed to finding a mutually acceptable solution with landowners. As part of the planning approval process for the construction of lines, it is obliged to represent the interests of all of Switzerland. If these run contrary to a landowner's individual interests, then expropriation proceedings are an option whereby Swissgrid can seek the necessary rights against the landowner's wishes.

Rights and obligations

What legislation governs easements?

Easements are generally governed by the Swiss Civil Code (SCC).

What rights does a landowner have in connection with transit rights?

As well as the right to remuneration, landowners are also entitled to demand that the line owner take due care of their property during construction and maintenance (see Article 737 Paragraph 2 SCC). This includes preventing unnecessary damage to existing plants and crops. If damage nevertheless occurs, the landowner has a claim to appropriate compensation.

Which easements must be publicly certified?

Since 1 January 2012, according to Article 732 Paragraph 1 SCC, every legal transaction concerning the establishment of a land easement has required public certification. However, previously completed, written easement contracts continue to be valid and are not required to be certified retroactively. Changes or additions to these contracts are only valid if they have been publicly certified.

What changes in the type, design and operation of a line are permitted without renewal of the easement?

There is no general answer to this question. It always depends on the content of the existing easement contract.

There are plans to build on a piece of land. What considerations are there if a power line crosses this particular land?

The ability to freely use the land is restricted by the existing easement. For planned construction projects, the applicable electricity law regulations (Electricity Act, SR 734; the Ordinance on Heavy Current, SR 734.2; the Ordinance on Electricity Lines, SR 734.31) and environmental and building law must be taken into account (namely the Ordinance for Protection from Non-Ionising Radiation (NISV), SR 814.710). For construction work in the line area, guidelines of the Swiss Accident Insurance Institute (SUVA) apply regarding the use of cranes and building machinery in the vicinity of electrical overhead lines.

For safety reasons and to avoid unnecessary costs, we strongly recommend early notification of possible construction projects in the vicinity of lines to Swissgrid to discuss their permissibility as well as the next steps in the process.

You can contact us by post, via contact form or by telephone on +41 848 010 020.

Duration and remuneration

How long will the land be encumbered by the easement?

This is stipulated in the easement contract. A contract is either concluded for a limited term and has to be renewed if the line will continue operating once the contract expires or it is concluded for an indefinite period, for as long as the line is needed and operated. In this case, the easement terminates with the removal of the line.

In the past, electricity companies have handled contract durations differently («whilst the line is in place», a 50-year term or other terms). In accordance with recommendations from the Association of Swiss Electricity Companies (VSE), Swissgrid will always conclude new contracts with a term «whilst the line is in place».

If a landowner signs a contract for an indefinite period («whilst the line is in place»), does that mean the line will remain in place forever?

Signing an easement contract with an indefinite term («whilst the line is in place») means that the contract is valid for as long as the line exists. This means that the contract becomes invalid as soon as the line is dismantled.

Under no circumstances does an easement contract define how long the line remains in operation – regardless of whether the respective contract stipulates a fixed or indefinite term. Unlike a limited-term contract, an agreement lasting «whilst the line is in place» only means that there is no need to renew the rights.

When is remuneration paid for the transit rights granted?

If the transit right is not for a fixed duration but rather is granted for the complete service life of the line, supplemental remuneration generally takes place every 25 years. For contracts with a fixed term, remuneration is paid on conclusion of the easement contract for the entire term of the contract. The easement contract itself stipulates the exact rules governing remuneration.

According to what principles are landowners affected by lines compensated?

Remuneration is based on the type of land affected, the suitability of the site for cultivation, the type of easement, etc. Easements are compensated based on the difficulties caused by the line that are tangible at the time the line is erected, at the time the rights are renewed or at the time supplemental remuneration is paid.

Most Swissgrid easements relate to agricultural land. Here the amount of remuneration is based on the joint recommendations of the Swiss Farmers' Union (SBV) and the Association of Swiss Electricity Companies (VSE). The applicable remuneration methods can be obtained from the Swiss Farmers' Union Treuhand und Schätzungen department.

Are there different remuneration methods for agricultural land and land with planning permission?

Yes. Easements for agricultural areas are not compensated in the same way as land with planning permission. If a line crosses land with planning permission, a construction limitation is normally agreed as an easement and the remuneration is calculated based on this.

Type of line

How do the transit rights for underground and overground lines differ?

There is no formal difference between transit rights for underground and overground lines. However, because underground lines are not visible, it is mandatory to enter the easement for underground lines in the land register. This is not required with overhead lines. The content of easements for underground and overground lines can vary slightly. For example, cable lines often require building and planting restrictions to secure constant access to the line at any time without major effort.

Can a landowner demand that an existing line be relocated or cabled?

By concluding an easement contract, the landowner undertakes to make available their land for the operation of the line, in the scope as stated in the contract and for the agreed amount of time, and is compensated accordingly. If the landowner demands that an easement or a line be relocated due to a change in usage requirements, then the landowner shall be liable for any and all related costs (Article 742 Paragraph 1 SCC).

When does a building application count as a «construction project near lines»?

A corridor can be drawn along the transmission grid running 100 metres to the right and left of the line. Within this corridor, all building applications are classified as «construction projects near lines» and must be checked by Swissgrid and also potentially by the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (ESTI).

Why is building near lines not allowed?

It is not the case that absolutely no building is allowed within the 100-metre corridor along the transmission line. However, the conditions whereby there can be construction work must be checked. If the construction project can be implemented, then it is essential to comply with rules on the building site so that safety can be guaranteed.

What happens when a building application near a line is filed?

Swissgrid records all building applications near the transmission grid. It then passes the building applications to the regional service providers. These review whether the building application is relevant for the transmission grid. The various deciding factors in this include the distance of the construction project to the transmission grid or also the compliance with electromagnetic limitations. If a construction project is relevant, the service provider presents an objection on behalf of Swissgrid. Furthermore, if the detailed test finds that the building application is to be deemed critical, then an application is submitted with the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (ESTI). The ESTI then decides whether and under what conditions construction may take place.

Who reviews the building applications?

Regional service providers take on the processing of building applications for Swissgrid. These are:

  • Central-eastern Switzerland region: Alpiq EnerTrans AG
  • North-western Switzerland region: BKW Energie AG
  • Western Switzerland region: Alpiq EnerTrans AG
  • Southern Switzerland region: Azienda Elletrica Ticinese (AET)

All questions about a planned construction project can be submitted to Swissgrid: info@swissgrid.ch

Who decides whether construction may take place and what conditions must be complied with?

For decision making, it is important where the building application is located. In the line area (5 m around the outermost conductor) the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (ESTI) decides whether and under what conditions construction may take place. The ESTI application forms the basis of the decision. This is submitted by Swissgrid. Outside of the line area, the decision rests with Swissgrid. The basis for this decision is, for example, the easement and transmission rights contracts as well as the compliance with all rules.

Which rules must be observed?

With building applications near the lines, the following rules are relevant, among others:

  • SUVA guideline 1863
    The SUVA guideline of 1863 explains the use of cranes and building machinery around electrical overhead lines.
  • Lines Ordinance (LineO)
    The LineO defines, among other things, the relevant distances (in particular art. 33ff.) as well as the exceptions which must be approved by the supervisory authority (art. 34).
  • Ordinance on Protection against Non-Ionised Radiation (NIRO)
    The NIRO regulates the restriction of emissions from electric and magnetic fields that are generated during operation of plants. Additionally, it contains rules about determining and judging the emissions of radiation and the elimination of building areas.
Who can I contact if I would like to (re-)build something near lines?

If you would like to build near a transmission line, please contact Swissgrid: info@swissgrid.ch

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Service provider

On 1 January 2016, Alpiq EnerTrans became the sole service provider to Swissgrid on matters of easement management.

  More information

Contact

Do you have questions about or want to change your easement contract? Contact us using our contact form or by phone.

 Contact form
Phone +41 848 010 020

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