BKW makes the energy transition possible

BKW will forge ahead with the production of renewable energies – and thus strengthen Switzerland’s security of supply in winter too. To that end, it is building alpine solar, wind and hydroelectric power plants. BKW is also expanding its electricity grid to ensure that electricity reaches customers. The right regulatory conditions are also needed.

A very normal winter’s day on Mont-Soleil in the Jura mountains: While the Swiss Plateau lies under a thick blanket of fog, up here the sun beats down with full force on the panels of the ground-mounted solar plant. “The system has been producing electricity reliably for more than 30 years,” says Pierre Berger, who is responsible for monitoring the installations. “And the panels have hardly lost any of their efficiency during this time.”Right next to it, several wind turbines are turning.  And around ten kilometers away, the La Goule hydroelectric power plant dams the Doubs, which marks the border between Switzerland and France here. Together, the three plants produce enough electricity to supply around 18,000 households. And not just in summer, but also in winter.
Strengthen Switzerland’s security of supply with electricity, especially in winter: To achieve this goal, BKW intends to invest in the construction of solar, wind and hydroelectric power plants. Not only on Mont-Soleil and in Jura, but in numerous places in Switzerland. In 2023, BKW was able to advance important projects - often together with long-standing partners: 

Solar plants: In December 2023, BKW presented its solar campaign. These include six ground-mounted solar plants in the Bernese Highlands and on Mont-Soleil, as well as BelpmoosSolar plant at Bern-Belp airport. Combined, all the planned plants could supply over 20,000 households. In addition, BKW connected 5,600 private PV systems in its grid area in 2023, 50% more than in the previous year.  

Wind turbines: In November 2023, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court gave the final go-ahead for the Tramelan wind farm. This project had previously been blocked by objections for eight years. This means BKW can build the planned wind turbines in the Bernese Jura. They will supply power to over 6,000 households.  

Hydroelectric power plants: In June 2023, BKW commissioned the Arvigo small hydroelectric plant in the Calanca Valley (GR), and in September 2023 the Augand hydroelectric plant on the Kander river in the Bernese Highlands. Together, they produce electricity for around 9,000 households. In addition, in June 2023, the Grand Council of the Canton of Bern issued Kraftwerke Oberhasli AG, in which BKW holds a 50-percent stake, the concession for the Trift water storage hydroelectric plant. This can produce additional electricity for over 32,000 households.  

«In 30 years, solar panels have hardly lost any of their efficiency.»
Pierre Berger, Site Operator Wind

These projects only make sense if the electricity flows reliably from the production plants to the customers. The grid thus makes the energy transition possible in the first place. As Switzerland’s largest distribution grid operator, BKW invested over CHF 120 million in the grid in 2023. Thus ensuring a far above-average availability of 99.996 percent. Or in other words: While the average Swiss household experiences 16 minutes of power outage per year, BKW customers lose power for just 12 minutes. 

As pleasing as these developments over the past year are: Unfortunately, BKW cannot make progress with renewable energy generation as quickly as it would like. BKW had to remove additional sites for alpine solar plants from its list because pending objections made it impossible to realize them within the period set by Parliament. The planned Jeanbrenin wind farm in the Bernese Jura has been blocked for years by objections. And two complaints were received against the issuance of the concession for the Trift Hydroelectric plant at the end of 2023.

Investments in renewable energy

* Excluding planned power plants  
** A 4-person household corresponds to 4,500 kilowatt hours



It is therefore even more important that the political conditions in Switzerland enable a faster expansion of renewable energy production in the future. At the forefront of this is the “Yes to the Electricity Act” campaign. Among other things, the amended law prioritizes 16 hydroelectric projects, such as the Trift plant and the raising of the Lake Grimsel dam. The Swiss people will have the last word here. A Yes vote will help to massively improve the security of electricity supply in Switzerland. In addition, the Acceleration bill and the “Grid Express” are also important legislative projects at the federal level. 

Despite all the obstacles to the energy transition, BKW has set itself an ambitious target in 2023: By 2040, it wants to produce the energy it supplies such that, on balance, no more CO2 is emitted - in other words, net zero. In Switzerland alone, BKW has a project pipeline for the expansion of renewables of more than one billion Swiss francs. This is why the company is consistently pushing ahead with its projects in 2024:  

Solar plants: Construction application for several alpine ground-mounted solar plants.   

Wind turbines: Ground-breaking at the Tramelan wind farm.  

Hydroelectric power plants: Submission of the concession application for the raising of the Lake Grimsel dam. 

«A Yes on the Electricity Act will help improve the security of electricity supply in Switzerland massively.»

Its numerous projects demonstrate that BKW wants to invest in the construction of plants for the production of renewable energy in Switzerland. And wherever this is possible despite objections and lengthy approval processes. BKW is thus making an important contribution to securing Switzerland’s electricity supply - especially in the winter months. 
BKW is also investing in the expansion of renewable energy production in Europe. For example, it acquired wind projects in Sweden and Italy in 2023. BKW plans further investments in European wind power in 2024. Because, when it comes to energy policy, Switzerland and other European countries are closely intertwined. BKW therefore also supports the conclusion of an electricity agreement with the EU. 

In the meantime, the sun has set on Mont-Soleil; it is getting dark. While the solar plant is no longer supplying electricity, the wind turbines continue turning. More wind turbines will soon be turning in Tramelan, just a few kilometers from here. So that Switzerland will continue to have enough electricity in the future as well – including in the winter. 




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