New energy strategy poised to receive green light

For the GfS Bern research institute, the energy minister, Doris Leuthard, has played an important role in convincing people to support the new energy strategy Keystone

A new energy strategy is expected to see an easy victory at the ballot box in Switzerland on May 21, according to a survey published on Friday.

This content was published on April 7, 2017

A poll by the leading GfS Bern institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation found that 61% of people questioned were in favour of Energy Strategy 2050, which anchors the Swiss decision to move away from nuclear power.

The survey results bode well for the new energy strategy, which aims to set out the path for Switzerland’s energy future until 2050. As well as the gradual closure of five nuclear power plants across the country, the strategy aims to promote renewable sources of energy.

The government aims to cut nationwide energy usage by 43% by 2035, compared to 2000 levels. It also seeks to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping industrial gases, and to lower imports of fossil fuels. Two-thirds of the energy that the nation consumes now comes from oil and gas.

The poll found that 30% of people questioned reject the new energy strategy, which has already been agreed upon by a majority in parliament, while 9% are still undecided. The expected voter turnout is 45%.

Opinions largely formed

The polling institute nonetheless remains cautious. It said the first poll was only a “snapshot, without a specific forecast”. But during a news conference on Thursday in Bern, the chairman of the institute’s board of directors, Claude Longchamp, said supporters of the strategy had “a very good prospect of success”.

Things could well change during the political campaign, which has just begun, but probably not enough to reverse the overall trend. Just over half of people questioned (52%) said they would not change their minds.

“Energy is one of the issues that the Swiss vote on fairly regularly. It’s not that surprising that people’s opinions have already been formed,” said Longchamp, who was presenting his 77th and final vote poll.

Supporters of the new strategy were particularly interested in its potential to create new jobs (73% of those questioned), the idea of using local renewables (61%) and ending nuclear power (54%).

For opponents, the new strategy’s bureaucracy (63%) and increased costs (56%) are strong arguments. But only 37% say accepting the new law would endanger the country’s energy supply.

Among Swiss political parties, only the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, which launched the referendum, opposes the new law (54% of party members are against it). For the other parties, the acceptance rate never falls below 60%. For the Green Party and leftwing Social Democrats, 83% and 87% back the new law, respectively.

There are not many differences between the language regions. The new law is backed by 68% of French-speaking people, 57% of German speakers and 68% of Italian speakers.

Around 65% of those questioned also felt Swiss President Doris Leuthard, who is Swiss energy minister, was extremely credible and had played an important role.

“Trust in the government and Leuthard’s credibility have a major impact on voting intentions,” said the polling institute.

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