How much will it cost to modernise our electricity system, and who will pay?

The cost of modernising our electricity network is estimated at between 20 and 30 billion francs over a period of 20 to 30 years, i.e. around 1 billion francs per year. In the end, it will be consumers who will finance it through their electricity bills.

Swissgrid, the company that operates the extra-high-voltage grid (380 and 220 kilovolts), is counting on a bill of 4-6 billion francs to eliminate the vulnerabilities of this grid, which has 6,800 km of lines. Opinions differ, however, among industry players on the need for this work and the amount of investment required.

These improvements should make it possible to ensure that all Swiss regions are connected to at least two production basins in order to minimise the risk of power cuts and to strengthen links with Germany, France, Austria and Italy. The cost would increase by a factor of around 10 if underground lines were installed instead of overhead lines, in order to preserve the landscape.

Much higher investments, estimated by the electricity industry to be in the order of 15 billion francs, are needed to upgrade the 250,000 km of lines in the medium and low-voltage networks. The current network is predominantly unidirectional; electricity can flow only from the large power plants (hydro and nuclear) to the users via different voltage levels. However, green electricity, coming from new renewable energies, will mainly be produced at the end of the line on the low-voltage networks, whose capacity could rapidly exceed its capacity. It will therefore be necessary to be able to bring this electricity up to the higher voltage levels, which will require major improvements to make the network bidirectional, unless local storage capacity is developed with batteries [→ Q74].

Finally, an investment in the order of 5 to 8 billion will be required to make the grid “smart” by installing smart grid technologies [→ Q69].

Overall, funding for this new infrastructure will be passed on to consumers' electricity bills. This should represent an increase in the order of 1 to 2 centimes per kWh.

References

Association des entreprises électriques suisses (VSE/AES) (2012)
(). Contributions des technologies de production à l’approvisionnement en électricité et à la stabilité du système électrique.
International Energy Agency (IEA) (2017)
(). Energy technology perspectives 2017 - catalysing energy technology transformations.
Le Temps (2015)
(). Le projet de ligne électrique galmiz-mathod est abandonné. [Online]. Available at: www.letemps.ch/economie/projet-ligne-electrique-galmizmathod-abandonne.
Pauchard, Pierre (arcinfo.ch) (2015)
(). Le projet de ligne électrique yverdon-villarepos est déposé. [Online]. Available at: www.arcinfo.ch/articles/economie/le-projet-de-ligne-electrique-yverdon-villarepos-est-depose-89558.
SwissElectric (2019)
(). Lignes à haute tension: Exigences posées par l’ORNI. [Online]. Available at: www.bafu.admin.ch/bafu/fr/home/themes/electrosmog/info-specialistes/mesures-contre-l-electrosmog/lignes-a-haute-tension--exigences-posees-par-l-orni.html.
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