Swiss voters, in a national referendum over the weekend, voted to put an end to any new nuclear power plants and instead to focus on developing renewable energy capacity and reducing power consumption by increasing energy efficiency.
The referendum was held yesterday in Switzerland to vote on whether or not to overhaul the country’s energy system. The Energy Strategy 2050 had already been approved by Parliament last year, but the country’s rightwing Swiss People’s Party challenged the reform to a referendum in an attempt to block the move. Just over 42% of the Swiss population came out to vote yesterday, and the move to initiate the reform passed handily with 58.2% of the vote.
“After six years of debate in parliament and at committee level, a new chapter in Switzerland’s energy policy can begin,” said Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard at a news conference. “But there is still a lot of work to do.”
The energy reform includes several important aspects. First, the reform means that there will now be no longer any new general licenses provided for nuclear power plants — which currently provide 38% of the country’s energy — and that when the existing nuclear power plants reach the end of their lifespan, they will be closed and not replaced. Energy Strategy 2050 also intends to reduce per capita energy consumption by 16% by 2020, and by 43% by 2035, and reduce per capita electricity consumption by 3% in 2020 and 13% in 2035.
Switzerland is also now aiming to increase its renewable energy capacity, setting a target of generating 4,400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable energy (excluding hydropower) by 2020, and 11,400 GWh by 2035. The plan also intends to increase hydropower capacity generation to 37,400 GWh in 2035.
The people of Switzerland will likely be glad that this part of their country’s politics has reached a partial end, given how turbulent and divisive it has been between political opponents. Both parties have accused one another of presenting misleading figures, especially regarding the price of the average household electricity bill — with figures ranging between the two parties from CHF40 ($40.7) to CHF3,200 annually. The People’s Party also didn’t take the loss very well, immediately blaming their loss on the fact that they lost the referendum because they hadn’t had enough time to combat the “official propaganda” that had been published in favor of the “dangerous” energy plan.
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.