Joint project "Hydropower and geo-energy"


This joint project aims to develop a first critical block of fundamental research targets identified as part of the research and development roadmap for meeting the targets of the new federal energy strategy. It will focus on research and development on the supply side, on technology developments and strategies on the demand side, and on risk governance for the socio-economic aspects for both supply and demand.

Project description (ongoing research project)

In the area of electricity supply, Federal Parliament regards geo-energy and hydropower as the first priorities for nation-wide coordinated research and development. The situation of these two technologies is very different:

  • Today we do not have any electricity production from deep geothermal energy, so a sustained growth rate of installed capacity will be called for.
  • Hydropower production is already highly optimised. Maintaining the present infrastructure, adapting it to changing operating conditions and achieving a 10 percent increase in production will require innovative strategies and technologies.


The targets of the seven sub-projects in the SoE-HPGE cluster have been identified to cover key research developments:

  • For deep geothermal energy the project will encompass fundamental research into geo-energy with a focus on understanding processes for deep heat mining and CO2 circulation, as well as on permeability and stimulation processes at high T-P conditions. These themes will cover the different geological conditions to be researched in Switzerland for future exploitation.
  • For hydropower the project will encompass fundamental research and development for the further development of hydropower operations and infrastructure considering erosion and sediment handling in hydropower plants and in the changes to the periglacial environment. It will focus on future hydropower operations, covering both demand and supply aspects under changing climate conditions.
  • Overall, the project aims to develop the principles for a comprehensive risk governance for hydropower and geo-energy, covering both the supply and the demand side.

This joint project is to work closely together with the related project, "The future of Swiss hydropower: An integrated economic assessment of chances, threats and solutions (HP Future)".


The joint project will set out to answer several fundamental questions:

  • Can we safely extract deep geothermal heat and use it to produce a substantial portion of the national electricity supply at a competitive cost?
  • Is the geological capture of CO2 a viable measure to enable carbon-free generation of electricity?
  • Can we increase the present-day level of hydropower production under changing conditions?
  • Can we maintain, improve and operate the hydropower infrastructure in the long-term future?

Providing robust answers is highly significant in order for us to understand the potential of these electricity sources in the future energy mix.

Original title

Supply of electricity for 2050: hydropower and geo-energies

Principal Investigators

Leader of the joint project

  • Prof. Domenico Giardini, Institut für Geophysik, ETH Zürich

Deputy leader of the joint project

  • Prof. François Avellan, Direktor, Laboratoire de machines hydrauliques, EPF Lausanne


The joint project consists of seven research projects

Exploration and characterization of deep underground reservoirs

  • Prof. Larryn W. Diamond, Institut für Geologie, Universität Bern; Prof. Jean-Pierre Burg, Prof. Marco Herwegh-Züger, Prof. Klaus Holliger

HEPS4Power - Extended-range Hydrometeorological Ensemble Predictions for Improved Hydropower Operations and Revenues

  • Dr. Massimiliano Zappa, Eidg., Forschungsanstalt für Wald, Schnee und Landschaft WSL, Birmensdorf ZH; Dr. Christoph Spirig, Dr. Mark Liniger, Herr Frédéric Jordan

Potential for future hydropower plants in Switzerland: a systematic analysis in the periglacial environment (PHP)

  • Prof. Robert Michael Boes, Versuchsanstalt für Wasserbau, Hydrologie und Glaziologie, ETH Zürich; Prof. Martin Funk, Dr. Ismail Albayrak, Dr. David Vetsch

Adequate sediment handling at high-head hydropower plants to increase scheme efficiency

  • Prof. Robert Michael Boes, Versuchsanstalt für Wasserbau, Hydrologie und Glaziologie, ETH Zürich; Dr. Ismail Albayrak, Dr. David Vetsch

Modelling permeability and stimulation for deep heat mining

  • Dr. Thomas Driesner, Institut für Geochemie und Petrologie, ETH Zürich;Prof. Stephan Konrad Matthai, Prof. Rolf Krause, Prof. Stephen Miller

Optimizing Environmental Flow Releases under Future Hydropower Operation (HydroEnv)

  • Prof. Paolo Burlando, Institut für Umweltingenieurwissenschaften, ETH Zürich; Prof. Peter Molnar, Dr. Christopher Robinson, Prof. Tom Battin, Prof. Stuart Lane

Risk Governance of Deep Geothermal and Hydro Energy

  • Prof. Stefan Wiemer, Schweizerischer Erdbebendienst, ETH Zürich; Prof. Peter Burgherr, Dr. Michael Stauffacher, Prof. Bozidar Stojadinovic, Prof. Michael Lehning, Prof. Domenico Giardini

Cooperation with other projects from NRP 70

Joint project "The Future of Swiss Hydropower: An Integrated Economic Assessment of Chances, Threats and Solutions"

  • Prof. Hannes Weigt, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät, Universität Basel