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The role of glacier retreat for Swiss hydropower production

The Swiss glaciers are continuously losing mass, with the positive effect of ensuring high water yields during hot summer months. But how much of the Swiss hydropower production (HP) relies on water released by glacier mass loss, i.e. on water that cannot be replenished by precipitation in the coming decades ?

A team of hydrologists, glaciologists and hydraulic engineers produced the first Swiss-wide quantification for the share of annual HP that directly relies on the waters released by glacier mass loss.

Their key motivation was to understand the implications of past and future glacier mass loss for the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050, which plans a net HP increase of between 1.5 and 3.2 TWh yr-1.

This novel analysis required compiling the most recent data sets on Swiss water resources and hydropower infrastructure, and on the glacier mass evolution in the past and in the future

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