Rail travel – a source of inspiration.
Daniel Fischlin, CEO of Kraftwerke Oberhasli AG (KWO), uses Switzerland’s extensive rail network almost every day. For him, environmentally conscious travel and making good use of his journey times are good reasons for choosing the train. As he himself says, the panoramic journeys with Zentralbahn are also a source of inspiration. Since the beginning of 2021, the Zentralbahn rail network now extends right to his place of work in Innertkirchen.
You use the train as a means of transport almost every day, for both work and personal purposes. You often use Zentralbahn services, which take you directly to your place of work in Innertkirchen. What do you like about travelling with Zentralbahn? And what could be improved?
In 2010, when I started my first job at KWO, the old models were still in use. No air conditioning, hardly any tables and no power sockets. The ADLERs* provide a great travel experience and there’s nothing I lack whatsoever when I’m on the train. In fact, travelling by train is an inspiration for me, which is why I like working on the train, particularly when doing conceptual tasks. It’s also one of the reasons why I don’t have a car and why I’m more than happy to use public transport.
With your background, you also have some expertise in railways, on the one hand from your previous roles, and, on the other, because until the end of 2020, KWO used to operate the Meiringen–Innertkirchen Railway (MIB) before it was acquired by Zentralbahn. What appeals to you about the world of railways?
Even as a child, I was fascinated by railways, and of course I wanted to be a train driver. After my studies, it so happened that I got to commission power plants abroad for ABB. In every country where I worked, I travelled by train. My fondest memory is of China, where there were still lots of steam trains in operation in the early 1990s.
How did you feel about the takeover? Did it make you more happy or sad?
I did feel a bit sad, because the MIB line was part of KWO’s identity. The line from Meiringen to Innertkirchen was built specifically to support power plant construction in the 1920s. The MIB line was a plant railway for a long time. But of course it also made me happy because the line fell into good “railway hands”. Over time, it became more and more difficult for KWO to maintain and develop its railway expertise. The FOT regulations make no distinction between a company with a railway line of just under five kilometres and a bigger railway company like Zentralbahn.
The Grimsel region and its incredibly beautiful landscape is right on the doorstep of your workplace. You’re an active individual and you like getting out in this unique, rugged and beautiful region. What do you feel on your cross-country walks?
The intensity of the landscape, the colours of the granite rocks. You feel it all the more intensely when you’re alone, as you often are in the early and late seasons.
They say there’s no better place than the Grimselwelt area to recharge your batteries. Why exactly do you find it easier to relax and recuperate here than anywhere else? And is there somewhere in Grimselwelt that holds a special place in your heart?
The landscape around the Grimsel Pass and Susten Pass is fascinating, full of interesting sights. Grimselwelt as a whole is unique. Our mountain lift and railway or bridge experiences, the many hiking opportunities in KWO’s very extensive water catchment area, the attractive SAC huts. And let’s not forget our power plant tours inside the mountains, which are really exciting for visitors. For me personally, the hike up the Sidelhorn is right at the top of the list.
Demand for electricity from renewable sources is growing, with hydroelectric power playing an important role. What will our electricity world look like 20 or 30 years from now in your view? What will be our sources of power?
In summer, a lot of electricity will come from photovoltaic systems. During the daytime, there won’t be much demand for KWO’s run-of-river production. At night and during the morning and evening peaks, it will of course be a different story. In winter, demand for stored energy will be very high, which is why we’re developing the Trift storage projects and the expansion of Lake Grimsel. Today, KWO can only store around a quarter of its annual volume of water and use it in winter. The remainder is used as run-of-river water, especially in summer. Hydrogen will also play a key role. In summer in particular, hydrogen can be produced with surplus renewable energy using electrolysers** and could ideally be stored in the natural gas grid for consumption in winter.
One of KWO’s most important development projects is the construction of a new reservoir in the Trift area. The lake is to be used to produce additional alternative energy. What are the biggest challenges you face in this project?
In the first instance, the major challenges are the approval process and the long-term nature of these projects. In the approval process, you can expect to wait 10 to 15 years before a decision on construction is made, and the construction period is then around 8 years, so it takes more than 20 years from the project proposal to commissioning. During that period, the environment can change radically. In addition, dams are long-lasting structures with a lifespan of over 80 years.
*ADLER: Name of the seven-coach train composition that runs on the Lucerne–Interlaken Ost line.
**Electrolyser: Device that uses electric current to trigger a chemical reaction to convert substances.
Physische Ausgabe vom Magazin «hin und weg» – auch zum Abonnieren.
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