Swiss dam to grow by 23 metres as part of emergency construction project
A dam on a Swiss lake is set to grow 23 metres taller to help generate more power through hydroelectricity. The emergency construction law will allow building work to start on the Grimsel Pass Dam as soon as possible, bypassing the need to apply for planning permission and angering environmental groups in the country.
Environmental groups in Switzerland are unhappy with the dam expansion
For a number of years, discussions have been taking place regarding the potential expansion of the Grimsel Pass Dam, but legal and environmental opposition to the proposals has meant that no construction projects have been able to go ahead. With the passing of the new emergency law, the size of the dam will now be increased by 75 percent, bypassing the usual legal procedures.
Environmental groups and some Swiss politicians have criticised the government for passing the emergency law and overriding the legal process for construction projects. FDP National Councillor Matthias Jauslin told the Tages-Anzeiger that Switzerland’s parliament is acting “simultaneously as the legislative, executive and judiciary.”
The dam is not the first example of the Swiss government suspending standard procedures to help solve the energy crisis. In the past month, the Council of States partially suspended the approval procedures used for the construction of large alpine solar power plants until the end of 2025. They later extended the suspension to include hydroelectric power as well.
Growing concern over potential electricity shortages in Switzerland
As Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine continues, increasing energy prices are causing the government to rethink where the country’s energy comes from. As part of Switzerland’s sanctions on Russia, the country has begun to seek an alternative to Russian gas and oil, which has come at a cost: higher utility bills for many and the prospect of shortages.
The threat of a gas shortage has also forced the government to announce an energy-saving plan to avoid blackouts this winter. Adding to these pressures is the failure of Switzerland and the EU to agree on an institutional framework agreement, which could have paved the way for energy cooperation between the trade bloc and Switzerland.