Image of Mauvoisin Dam by Olivier Bruchez 

Swiss renewable energy firm Axpo is to supply hydropower from its Mauvoisin plant to Nestlé Switzerland over the next five years after signing a new power purchase agreement (PPA). The company also recently announced it has put a new hydropower plant into operation deep in the Grisons mountains.

Under the new PPA with Nestlé Switzerland, since January 1,2022 until the end of 2026, Nestlé will be supplied with almost 100GWh of electricity per year from Mauvoisin. This corresponds to the cumulative electricity demand of Nestlé's factories in Basel, Konolfingen, Wangen, Henniez, Orbe, Broc and Sofinol, where the well-known Swiss brand products of Nescafé, Thomy, Leisi, Cailler and Henniez, among others, are manufactured

“Nestlé's climate goal of achieving "net zero" by 2050 includes decarbonizing all our operations. The supply of 100% renewable electricity is part of this commitment,” commented Eugenio Simioni, CEO Nestlé Switzerland. “Thanks to this agreement, we know exactly where the green electricity that Axpo delivers to us comes from. This traceability and proximity give even more meaning to our actions”.

Unlike many other PPAs on international scale, the agreement inked by Axpo and Nestlé is not linked to a newly built renewable power plant, but to an existing one. With the decision to phase out the nuclear power plants in the country, it is important for Switzerland that hydropower plants, which provide around 60% of the country’s electricity, remain viable for as long as possible. Such long-term contracts help secure the selling price and can thus extend the life-cycle of the hydropower plants, said Axpo. The Mauvoisin reservoir was built between 1951 and 1958 at an altitude of 2000m in the Val de Bagnes in Valais. Its 250m high arch dam is one of the highest in Europe and attracts numerous visitors to its nature trail every year. With 212 million m3, the reservoir is one of the largest in Switzerland.

Domenico De Luca, Head Trading & Sales at Axpo, said: “We see an ever increasing demand of industrial companies in many European countries to cover their electricity consumption from renewable energy sources. Nestlé is taking on the role of a pioneer in green energy with this agreement, and we are pleased to be able to supply them with such an important part of their energy consumption”.

Laurent Nanzer, Head Origination Switzerland at Axpo, added: “The PPA market is at an early stage in Switzerland, as compared to other European countries. Axpo is already a PPA leader in Europe – so it is only natural that we also become a leader in our home country”.

One year ago, Axpo closed the very first PPA ever in Switzerland for the AlpinSolar plant at Lake Muttsee. The PPA now signed with Nestlé for the Mauvoisin hydropower plant is the next milestone and Axpo said it. strengthens its position as a pioneer in the Swiss PPA market.

Small hydropower development

In other news from Axpo, it announced earlier this week that it had placed the 2.5MW Curnera hydropower plant of Kraftwerke Vorderrhein AG (KVR) into operation. 

Located 250 metres inside the mountains the Curnera small hydropower plant utilises an existing water transfer system between the two reservoirs Curnera and Nalps. 

So far, this system has only been used to transfer water and not for electricity production. The newly installed Francis turbine with an output of 2.5MW produces up to 10 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity per year. The construction costs for the Curnera power plant amounted to around 3 million Swiss francs.

“This investment into the Curnera small hydropower plant reinforces Axpo’s commitment to renewable energy in Switzerland,” said Jörg Huwyler, Head of the Hydroenergy and Biomass Division at Axpo. “In the economically challenging environment of Swiss hydropower, projects such as this one help to advance the currently sluggish expansion – however, the potential for such plants is limited.”

Due to the Alpine terrain, the specialists at Axpo required a construction ropeway to transport the components to the access tunnel. This ropeway has lready been dismantled. Thanks to excellent cooperation with the companies involved, construction work on the power plant was completed on schedule in late December 2021.

Kraftwerke Vorderrhein AG, based in Disentis/Mustér, is a partner plant of the Grisons canton (10%), the concession-granting municipalities (8.5%) and Axpo (81.5%).