The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

“More electricity needed”: Rösti campaigns for a yes to the energy decree

Switzerland should be able to produce more electricity from renewable energies and secure its electricity supply. "We need a lot more electricity," says Energy Minister Albert Rösti, explaining the Federal Council and Parliament's "yes" recommendation on June 9 for the energy decree.

Rösti told the media in Bern on Monday that the expansion of electricity production was the main aim of the proposal for a secure electricity supply with renewable energies. In the past two years, there have been unprecedented distortions on the energy markets and the supply situation is fragile. And the demand for electricity is increasing due to decarbonization.

"Switzerland cannot afford a shortage"

If Switzerland increased its electricity production and was less dependent on imported electricity, this would strengthen its independence and sovereignty. And: "A rich country like Switzerland cannot afford an electricity shortage," said Rösti. The damage to the economy and reputation would be enormous.

In the short and medium term, the Federal Council and Parliament are therefore focusing on more electricity from hydropower, biogas, solar and wind energy, which are the available and realistic sources, according to Rösti. In the longer term, other technologies could then be used. However, Rösti did not want to be more specific. It is too early for that.

According to the proposal, domestic winter electricity production must increase by at least 6 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2040 compared to today, primarily thanks to storage hydropower plants, wind power plants and large solar power plants in the mountains. These may only be built in suitable areas designated by the cantons.

"Balanced compromise"

The cantons must take nature and agricultural interests into consideration. "There will be no sprawling development with plants that destroy the landscape," Rösti clarified and spoke of a "carefully balanced compromise" between protection and electricity production. Even if electricity takes priority, votes and objections remain possible.

For hydropower, the bill lists 16 projects that benefit from simplified planning conditions. According to the federal government, three projects are new constructions and the remaining 13 are renovations of existing plants. There are still opportunities to have a say in connection with the licensing of the plants.

Despite these large-scale installations, solar cells in the valley are not being left out. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy estimates that around 25 TWh of solar power can be produced on roofs, façades and infrastructure buildings by 2035, around 30 percent of which will be generated in winter.

No general solar obligation

Remuneration should provide an incentive for photovoltaic systems. However, parliament rejected a general solar obligation for buildings. Panels are only mandatory for new buildings that have 300 or more square meters of usable space. Parliament also did not want to make solar panels mandatory for parking spaces.

In addition to expanding production, the bill aims to increase energy efficiency. Electricity consumption is to be reduced by 2 terawatt hours by 2035. "Every kilowatt hour that is not consumed does not have to be produced, transported and stored," said Rösti.

The 400 electricity suppliers that together account for over 90 percent of consumption are obliged to do so. They must save a certain percentage of their sales each year - the Federal Council provides specific details. They can, for example, advise their end consumers on the purchase of energy-saving systems and appliances.

Dynamic electricity tariffs

Suppliers can also offer dynamic electricity tariffs. They are intended to encourage consumers to charge their car battery or run the dishwasher when the electricity grid is less busy. This should make it possible to expand the electricity grids less.

The law, which was passed by parliament with a clear majority, is being fought by a committee led by the Fondation Franz Weber. The committee argues that the energy decree calls into question fundamental principles of nature and landscape conservation. It is absurd to sacrifice nature for the climate.

©Keystone/SDA

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