Swiss vote to ban nuclear, finance renewables

In a move approved by 58.2% of the population in a referendum, Switzerland will look to usher in a wave of renewable energy investment.

Switzerland will no longer build nuclear power plants and will instead subsidise the growth of renewables following a groundbreaking referendum yesterday.

Some 58.2 percent voted not to replace the country’s five existing nuclear plants at the end of their lifecycles and instead substitute them with a growth in wind, solar and geothermal power which the country has largely failed to harness thus far.

The result of the referendum means two of the five plants will not be replaced by new nuclear when they are retired in 2019. The two projects generate about 738MW of electricity, while a third 365MW project could be retired in 2021.

About 33.5 percent of Switzerland’s current generation is produced by nuclear power, with 59.9 percent generated by hydropower projects, which account for 13.7GW of the 15.2GW of renewable energy Switzerland has installed.

Just 76MW of wind power is installed in Switzerland while it holds about 1.6GW of solar power, largely from rooftop installations, according to the International Renewable Energy Association. The revised energy strategy plans for non-hydro renewable energy sources to increase their production from the current 2,831GWh to 11,400GWh by 2035.

The move is set to be financed by an increase in electricity bills which the government says will raise CHF480 million ($494.8 million; €440.1 million) per year to subsidise renewable energy.

“In order to achieve the objectives set out in the Energy Act, the planning and authorisation processes for wind energy projects must now proceed at a more sustained pace,” said wind trade body Switzerland Eole following the vote.

The group criticised the “almost daily” circulation of “fake news” promoted by opponents of the law. Critics have said it will cost a family of four an extra CHF3,200 per year while Swiss energy minister Doris Leuthard said it will cost CHF40 per year for a family of four.

“The Energy Act is driving our country into a modern energy future,” Leuthard stated.