Switch to the Axpo Group website.

Go to Axpo Group website.

13.12.2021 | Automated planning of overhead lines and underground cables with new software

New software: Optimal routing of power lines

Digitization is also playing an increasingly decisive role in determining routes for high-voltage power lines. As part of its digitization initiative, Axpo is therefore focusing on software-supported planning for power line construction projects.

The optimal planning of a route for a high-voltage line is still highly demanding. This is especially true in densely populated places or in protected areas. In addition to technical criteria and costs for planning and construction, spatial planning aspects such as topography and settlement planning as well as legal regulations on landscape and environmental protection influence the design of the route. All this poses major challenges for network operators. With the planning methods used up to now, optimal line layouts were very costly and time-consuming to locate.

Digitization of line planning offers new opportunities here: it can accelerate the planning process and take equal account of economic efficiency and optimal routing. Digitization is part of Axpo's digital transformation and an important basis for a modern energy supply. As part of its Grid 4.0 digitalization initiative, Axpo is working with the software developer Gilytics for the software-supported planning of its high-voltage lines. Its Pathfinder software uses digital maps to find the best routing solutions, taking all relevant aspects into account, and displays them visually.

For this purpose, Gilytics, a spin-off of ETH, developed a cloud platform that serves the evaluation of strategic network planning, variant planning of line projects of different network levels and can be used for the public communication of such projects. The Pathfinder software can save planning time and identify shorter line routes, especially in larger line projects. It thus enables faster and more transparent decision-making and also variant planning for overhead lines and underground cables.

Digitized line planning of a substation connection

For the connection of a new substation, a team of Axpo experts worked out the routing using Pathfinder software. The goal was to work out the best routing options for overhead lines and cable lines. This project was ideally suited to take advantage of the software's full range of features and processes. Since Axpo's team had already worked out possible line routes in advance using the previous methods, they were able to compare their results with those of the digital method. The team modeled the area and defined extensive layers in the software to represent the technical, legal and spatial planning aspects at a granular level.


Pathfinder was used to identify several variants for overhead and cable line routes. The comparison of the routing for the overhead lines of Pathfinder with the variants of the previous method showed a similar course between forest and settlement area. However, the digital variant provides an ideal basis for quick adjustments and for future project steps such as communication and construction. And it offers other advantages: Pathfinder's proposed routing of the cable line through the village has the shortest length. However, it runs for a longer distance in a recently repaved road. An aspect that was not noted in the traditional routing. Another advantage is shown in relation to the archaeological areas, which were not considered in the preliminary project. In Pathfinder, all relevant areas are available in the same tool. Its recommendation to bypass the conservation and recreation area was also useful. 

Pathfinder compares two pipeline routes
Automatic classification of buildings to comply with minimum legal distances
Challenges led to competence building

With Pathfinder, optimal routes for all stakeholders could be found according to parameterization or shorter routes. This leads to lower material consumption, less energy loss and thus indirectly saves CO2. In order to meet the challenges regarding data basis, establishment of an engineering standard and further development of the software, a good and close cooperation with Gilytics was necessary.

An important basis at the beginning of a project is the procurement of up-to-date geodata on federal, cantonal and municipal level. After initially procuring data manually, Axpo has been able to access Swisstopo's database directly since March 2021, thus reducing the effort required. Currently, cantonal and municipal data is being procured and imported into Pathfinder.

Offer to infrastructure operators

With the projects carried out to automate route planning, Axpo achieved a successful step towards the end-to-end digitalization of planning and engineering of line construction projects. This fits in as a building block for the comprehensive digitalization of the grid business as part of Axpo's Grid 4.0 initiative with further topics such as BIM, data analytics & cloud, robotics and process automation. Analogous to other digital solutions, Axpo offers infrastructure operators to share experiences in the digitization of line planning or to support the use of the software in projects or to carry out comprehensive planning services with Pathfinder.

Axpo Grids's digital solutions: axpo.com/digitalsolutions

More articles for you

Show all

Energy market

Growing business: how Axpo is helping French greenhouse farmers

Innovative partnerships in France

Read more

Energy market

Weather and geopolitics shape European energy markets

European Energy Markets Monthly, June 2024

Read more


We are planning the grid of the future

Interview with Roland Notter and Dominik Amrein

Read more

International business

Gas decarbonisation and hydrogen package

EU internal gas market: More green & low-carbon molecules

Read more