Switzerland is considering building new hydroelectric dams amid a squeeze on European energy supplies that’s caused a surge in prices.
The Federal Office of Energy will meet on Monday to consider a new list of projects, newspaper Le Matin Dimanche reported Sunday, citing people familiar with the plans.
Switzerland, already one of the world’s biggest hydroelectric generators, warned major industrial power users in October they may have to conserve energy use this winter to avoid large scale blackouts. Power prices have surged across Europe in recent months due to a squeeze on natural gas supplies.
The country will consider building concrete dams in the Swiss Alps that will use water reservoirs to drive turbines and produce electricity without producing carbon. Among the potential new dams is “Gornerli” near Zermatt that could stand 85 meters (278 feet) high, 285 meters wide, and cost some 250 million Swiss francs ($271 million) to build, Le Matin Dimanche reported.
The proposed dam, near the ski resort town of Zermatt, would face the famed Matterhorn mountain peak. The project is backed by energy firm Alpiq AG and could generate enough power for 150,000 households.
While the proposal is smaller than some of Switzerland’s existing dams such as the Grande Dixence, it’s likely to face opposition from some environmental groups, the newspaper reported. The project sits on federally protected land.
Thanks to hydroelectric dams, Switzerland produces enough power in the summer but must import power in the winter. Hydroelectric power accounts for about 57% of Switzerland’s energy needs, according to the federal government. There are some 677 hydro power plants in Switzerland, ranking it the fourth largest in Europe behind Norway, Austria and Iceland, the government says.