Grid expansion is necessary

Rising electricity consumption, new power plants at home and abroad and the increasingly decentralised generation of electricity from renewable energies present the transmission grid with major challenges. To ensure a future of sustainable energy, we need to modernise the transmission grid. We need to cover demand while preventing bottlenecks and closing the gaps in the transmission grid. Specifically, we need to optimise the grid systematically and strengthen it where necessary.

 
Elimination of existing bottlenecks

Nearly two-thirds of today’s transmission grid was built in the 1950s and 60s. At that time, the focus was on ensuring regional supplies by transporting energy from nearby power plants to areas of heavy consumption. But the needs of the grid have changed in recent years. On the one hand, there are new power plants, while on the other there are new and continuously growing centres of consumption, which have a higher demand for electricity.

As a result, the Swiss transmission grid already has bottlenecks that need eliminating in order to enhance the security of supply throughout Switzerland.

 
What is impelling the Swiss grid

As part of the plans for the «Strategic Grid 2025», Swissgrid has identified the key drivers for grid development. The direct drivers behind the renovation and expansion of the Swiss transmission grid are the international network, connection of new large power plants and the secure supply of downstream grids.

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International association

Exchanging electricity abroad increases Switzerland’s supply security. It permits the export of domestically produced electricity and the import needed at times of low domestic production (primarily in winter). In the event of increasing volumes overloading of the grid can occur. Expected imports and exports make domestic grid expansion necessary.

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Major new power plants in Switzerland

This can for example include the new construction of a large pumped storage facility, which greatly changes the transport task in a region. New pumped storage power plants in thinly populated regions with fewer strong lines in particular cause overloading of the grid.

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Supply of downstream grids

The distribution grids are constantly adjusting to changes in electricity demand and generation. New connection requests can lead to structural congestion and as a result change the supply task for Swissgrid, which also has an effect on the «Strategic Grid 2025».

 
As few new lines as possible, as many as necessary

The NOVA principle (grid optimisation before reinforcement before expansion) provides an important technical planning basis that aims to keep the impact on landscape and the environment as low as possible.

The breakdown of projects for the «Strategic Grid 2025» is as follows:

  • 193 kilometres: Increase in voltage from 220 to 380 kV on lines that are dimensioned and approved for this (grid optimisation)
  • 87 kilometres: Replacement of existing lines to increase the voltage from 220 to 380 kV (grid reinforcement)
  • 370 kilometres: Construction of lines along new routes (grid expansion)

 
Important dialogue with stakeholders and interested parties

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Expansion projects need to have a clearly defined, multi-stage procedure in place from the project idea through to their realisation in the field, which is approved by the competent authorities. Its starting point is the sectoral planning process, which considers a project in a broader spatial context. Only in a second step, the planning approval process, is the focus on actual routing of power lines.

Swissgrid involves those parties affected by the network expansion early on in the process, at the appropriate level and within the specified process framework. Swissgrid makes use of various occasions and opportunities to reach out to affected communities:

  • Direct dialogue and site inspections with representatives of affected municipalities are important to promote mutual understanding, build trust and grow acquainted with the local situation.
  • Information events about grid projects offer all interested parties an opportunity to gain detailed knowledge about every aspect of a project, and put specific questions to the experts.
  • Key information on all grid projects is published on the Swissgrid website and also spread via Twitter.

 
Grid project communication

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Swissgrid maintains an open and transparent dialogue with all the relevant stakeholder groups. The various concerns of the affected and interested parties are gathered in due time and taken into account, in order to enhance acceptance of the expansion plans.

Along with the authorities conducting and involved in the process, the most important stakeholder groups for grid construction projects in Switzerland include the cantons, municipalities, landowners, environmental organisations, the media and the public at large. Depending on the phase and size of the project, Swissgrid sets up various communication channels to engage in constructive and solution-oriented dialogue with these stakeholder groups. Swissgrid conducts direct discussions, organises public information events, monitoring groups and on-site inspection tours, and provides information about all the important projects on its website. In addition, Swissgrid also facilitates communication and dialogue via social media (e.g. Twitter and YouTube).

The «Grid Infrastructure Communication Toolkit» has been developed in the context of a European project in which Swissgrid has also been involved. This is an online guide, presenting practical tools and measures that promote a constructive and solution-oriented dialogue with various stakeholder groups.

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