Complaints halt hydrogen project in Switzerland

Swiss energy concern Axpo had intended to build a hydrogen production facility at the Eglisau-Glattfelden hydroelectric power plant. However the project, which was to be located directly on the German-Swiss border, has now been stopped due to complaints about the granting of a special license.

The hydrogen plant was expected to have a capacity of over 2.5 megawatts and produce around 350 metric tons of green hydrogen annually. Sufficient to save approximately 1.5 million liters of diesel from road transport every year, according to the supplier’s calculations. The plant could have been enlarged to 5 megawatts as demand increased. Plans indicated potential for several refueling stations in the area to be supplied with hydrogen.

Nevertheless, in order for construction work in Eglisau-Glattfelden to go ahead, an existing building belonging to the power plant, located outside the construction area, would have needed to be demolished and replaced. To allow this to happen, Axpo had submitted an application for a special license which was then approved by the local authority. This prompted objections to be lodged by three private individuals at the court of appeal for building matters in the canton of Zürich, which then upheld their complaints. It was said that there are “no particularly significant and objective grounds” for conferring the special license. The public interest in producing energy here was purportedly given less weight by the court than the anticipated traffic noise from trucks resulting from the project.

Commenting on the decision, Guy Bühler, project lead at Axpo, warned: “The decision to narrowly interpret the law even in the case of an environmentally beneficial plant that is in line with the 2050 energy strategy will hamper decarbonization efforts.” He added: “We very much regret that we will once again be prevented from making a greater contribution to Switzerland’s decarbonization.”

Despite the project coming to an abrupt halt, Axpo intends to proceed with other building plans involving green hydrogen and complete further projects in Switzerland. Bühler now sees legislators as bearing responsibility. “Conditions need to be created that enable innovative projects to be carried out and thus make it possible to channel urgently needed investment into the energy transition.”

Author: Niels Hendrik Petersen

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