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04.03.22 | 2 min

«We want to make a contribution to security of supply.»

According to plans by Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, two to three gas-fired power plants are to be built in Switzerland by 2025 to avert the looming winter electricity shortfall. A first one could be realized on the site of the paper mill in Perlen. Peter Schildknecht, CEO of CPH Chemie + Papier Holding AG, is the brains behind this idea.

Mr. Schildknecht, how did the idea come about that a gas-fired power plant could be built on your site?

The production site of Perlen Papier AG has existed for almost 150 years and is basically based on a hydroelectric power plant built by August Bell for the paper mill on the Reuss Canal. Dealing with energy as a central input factor in our production has, so to speak, become part of our DNA. We also already operate a biomass power plant at the site. As a location for a gas-fired power plant, Perlen has various advantages: It is geographically centrally located and there is sufficient space on the existing industrial site. A pipeline for the supply of gas exists in the immediate vicinity and the electricity can be fed into the high-voltage grid at the nearby Mettlen substation. All these factors allow a relatively quick realization and connection compared to other locations.

What opportunities and possible challenges would this project present for CPH?

Perlen Papier is the only manufacturer of newsprint in Switzerland and is system-relevant. Since production takes place around the clock, the mill is dependent on a reliable energy supply. We already obtain steam from the Renergia waste incineration plant. With the gas-fired power plant, we can counteract an impending power shortage in winter and secure the power supply.

Land is fundamentally something scarce. By building a gas-fired power plant, wouldn't you perhaps be giving yourself an opportunity to use the land for other purposes?

Our land is used according to long-term strategic considerations. In late summer 2021, for example, we announced that we would be cooperating strategically with Schilliger Holz AG on a production plant for wood-fiber insulation boards and, among other things, handing over a land area of 20,000 m2 in building rights. Fortunately, we have sufficient land for further strategic alliances.

The expressed interest in building a gas-fired power plant on your own site automatically means a political statement, of course - how do you deal with it?

We will be confronted with electricity shortages in Switzerland as early as 2025, especially in the winter months. In the coming weeks and months, there will be a political discussion about how we want to deal with this situation. The CPH Group has an optimal location for a gas-fired power plant in Perlen, and we also see it as our responsibility to contribute to Switzerland's security of energy supply.

For 200 years, the CPH Group has stood for industrial expertise, innovation and sustainability in the chemical, paper and packaging sectors. CPH operates production sites in Switzerland, the USA, Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil and China and has a global presence with sales companies and agents. Its headquarters are in Perlen. 

On the CPH Group website you can read media reports about Peter Schildknecht's gas power plant ideas.