South Tyrol has over 100 years of know-how in power generation. The use of water power began at the end of the 19th century. In 1897 the first power plant came onstream at Mühlen in the Puster Valley. In the same year, the first major hydropower plant in South Tyrol was created at Töll near Meran. Before the First World War plants were built in Toblach, St. Ulrich, Schlanders, Mals, Bruneck, Brixen, Kaltern, Wolkenstein, Welsberg, Latsch, Sterzing, Welschnofen, Trafoi, Olang and Schnals.

After South Tyrol’s annexation to Italy, power plants were built in Marling (1924-25) and Pfitsch (1927). As part its policy of self-sufficiency, the Fascist regime invested in the exploitation of South Tyrolean hydropower. In 1931 the Kardaun plant began operation as Europe’s largest hydroelectric plant and in 1938 the power plant in Waidbruck was opened. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, plants in South Tyrol supplied 12% of Italy’s power consumption.

In 1941 work began on the construction of the dam on the Reschen Lake in the Upper Vinschgau Valley. Only after the disastrous failure of the Vajont dam at Longarone in October 1963 did Italy cease construction of other dams in the Alps. Local energy production was largely removed from the influence of the provincial administration in South Tyrol. For several decades, Italian energy companies – in particular the state-owned concern ENEL – exploited South Tyrol’s “white gold”.
South Tyrolean Energy
Only in 1972, with the new autonomy statute, were important responsibilities in the energy sector transferred to the province, such as the award of concessions for water offtakes, an indispensable requirement for the running of hydropower
plants. In 1994 the first biomass-fired district heating plant was opened at Rasen-Antholz in the Puster Valley. In 1998 the province of South Tyrol established its own energy provider, SEL, which in the following years grew to become the
largest player on the South Tyrol electricity market.

The company participates in joint ventures to operate large hydropower stations in South Tyrol. SEL and Edison have since 2008 been running seven hydropower plants via their joint company Hydros AG. In 2011 SEL and Edison set up Seledison to operate two hydropower plants in the Vinschgau Valley. In 2010 SEL and ENEL joined forces in SE Hydropower, which possesses 17 power plants. In 2011 the SEL subsidiary SELNET took over the running of the ENEL grid.

In 2012 the accelerated expansion of SEL led this “big player” on the South Tyrolean landscape into a political and legal dispute. The province of South Tyrol had previously transferred the running of 12 large power plants, generating some 50% of the total electricity produced in South Tyrol, to its own company via a tender procedure. Since then several lawsuits are pending due to alleged irregularities in the award of concessions.

Even a committee of inquiry of the South Tyrol regional assembly became involved in this process. In spring 2014 the provincial administration commissioned a group of experts representing all of the major players on the South Tyrolean
landscape to find amicable solutions, thus fulfilling a demand of SEV which, under the motto “co-operation instead of confrontation”, expressed its desire for a fair dialogue between equals.

The solution to this ‘license dispute’ is an unprecedented consolidation process. In January 2015 SEL plc acquires ENEL’s shares of the San Floriano, Egna, plant. In April SEL buys the ENEL shares to SE hydropower plc and thus becomes the sole owner. In December 2015 SEL takes over Edison’s shares in SE Hydros and Seledison as part of an exchange operation.

All hydroelectric power stations in South Tyrol are currently under ‘local’ ownership. The decisive step was taken at the end of 2015. On 22 December Etschwerke and SEL merge into Alperia. A good 54.45 percent ownership belongs to the Province of South Tyrol, with 21 percent belonging to the cities of Bolzano and Merano, while 3.55 percent belong to the cooperative of South Tyrolean cities, SELFIN. Alperia registers a yearly turnover of around 1.5 billion Euro and is one of the largest energy provider companies in Italy.

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