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Alpiq awarded new 70-year concession for 51.3-MW Gösgen hydropower plant

Alpiq’s 51.3-MW Gösgen hydropower plant in Switzerland has been granted a new concession for 70 years, signed by the governments of the cantons of Solothurn and Aargau and representatives of Alpiq.

The new concession took effect retroactively from Jan. 1, 2020.

The current concession for the Gösgen hydropower plant and Winznau weir is valid until 2027. Because the Winznau weir requires comprehensive refurbishments, the two cantons and Alpiq Hydro Aare AG, the current concession holder, entered into negotiations regarding an early renewal of the concession for a period of 70 years. 

Over the coming years, Alpiq will invest CHF63 million (US$68 million) in the largest run-of-river power plant on the River Aare. This includes CHF12 million (US$13 million) to implement a total of 21 compensation and offsetting measures. These measures will significantly improve the environmental footprint of the hydropower utilization at the Gösgen hydropower plant in line with the Federal Act on the Protection of Nature and Cultural Heritage. Fish migration, for example, will be improved thanks to increased water discharge into the revitalized old Aare, a new fish bypass at the engine house in Niedergösgen and removal of the Bally weir.

“The promotion and safeguarding of domestic renewable and thus resource-conserving electricity generation by means of hydropower is of key importance,” explained Solothurn’s Director of the Construction and Justice Departments, Roland Fürst. “Thus, we are delighted that thanks to the renewal of the concession and Alpiq’s investments, the Gösgen hydropower plant will continue to generate environmentally friendly electricity for the next 70 years.”

“The exemplary and pioneering new concession for the Gösgen hydropower plant and the continuation of the partnership with the cantons of Solothurn and Aargau represent a milestone for us,” said Michael Wider, a member of Alpiq’s Executive Board and Head of the Generation Switzerland business division. “We are proud to continue the pioneering project, which began in Gösgen in 1917, for another 70 years.”

The Gösgen hydropower plant was constructed between 1913 and 1917. Between 1996 and 2000, the engine house was completely restructured. The plant has an average annual output of 300 million kWh, which corresponds to the annual consumption of some 75,000 households. The power plant uses the gradient of the River Aare over a stretch of around 14.5 km, 93% of which runs through the canton of Solothurn and 7% through the canton of Aargau. The two cantons share in the revenue from the granting of the concession in the same proportions.

Alpiq generates electricity from hydropower, fossil fuels, nuclear energy and new renewable energies. Per its website: “Hydropower is the number one renewable energy source and the backbone of Swiss electricity generation. We have been using this energy source for more than 100 years with our own run-of-river, storage and pumped storage power plants in Switzerland and Italy. Hydropower will become even more important in the future: It is carbon-free, efficient and highly flexible.”