Swiss press reacts positively to energy legislation

A big win for the Swiss energy minister Keystone

A majority of commentators in Swiss newspapers are pleased with voters’ decision to withdraw from nuclear power and promote renewable energies, even if the government’s energy strategy leaves many open questions.

This content was published on May 22, 2017 - 13:27

The Basler Zeitung sees a "change of direction with numerous open questions" following Sunday’s vote (58% of voters) in favour of Energy Strategy 2050External link. For the Bund and the Tages-Anzeiger, the decision represents an important step “despite open questions”. Many newspaper declared it a big win for Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard, who holds the revolving presidency.

The vote was nothing less than “a historical decision” wrote the Aargauer Zeitung, based in the canton with three of the nation’s five nuclear power plants. It noted that “large, complex voting packages are usually difficult for voters” and "the energy legislation contains elements that go very far and break with liberal principles that were once deeply embedded."

But the nuclear ban, intervention in the energy market and subsidies for renewable energies will have “uncertain cost sequences for taxpayers and electricity consumers”, the newspaper added.

For many papers, the decision turned on Leuthard’s popularity and her campaign since Japan’s nuclear disaster at Fukushima in March 2011 to transform Switzerland’s energy policies.

The Corriere del Ticino noted that "apart from Doris Leuthard 's conviction”, there were several factors at play in the decision, including the pragmatism of the package and the work that parliament put into it.

Lingering questions

Newspaper raised questions about subsidies, energy consumption and supply when nuclear plants are switched off. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung said it was disappointed: “The energy law from the Federal Council’s strategy will not succeed, because the delicate but decisive points are not addressed, let alone regulated."

The NZZ warned that the expansion of funding will "broaden the army of the profiteers", and a new subsidy policy threatened. "Switzerland's energy future has not only become more expensive on this Sunday, but has also become less secure in terms of supply and not even more environmentally friendly,” it wrote.

For the Basler Zeitung, "the sheer number of open questions" will be costly. “Only one thing is clear: the answers to these questions will cost money, much money,” it wrote.

The plan in detail

Nuclear ban: No construction of new nuclear power plants. The existing nuclear power plants may remain in operation for as long as they are considered safe.

Energy savings: Various measures included to reduce the amount of electricity and energy consumed in Switzerland. These include, for example, tax relief for energy-efficient house renovations.

Promotion of renewable energies: Provisions included to ensure more energy is obtained from renewable sources. For example, new plants are to be approved more quickly.

Increase of the network surcharge: The grid surcharge that every household and most companies have to pay is now increased from 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour to 2.3 cents. This is to finance the energy turnaround.

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