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Council of States wants to push energy transition at the expense of environmental protection

Wind turbines and solar systems are to be installed in biotopes of national importance and regulations on residual water volumes are to be suspended: this is how the Energy Commission of the Council of States wants to accelerate the energy transition. In doing so, it crosses several red lines set by environmental organizations.

The Energy Commission of the Council of States wants to further expand the potential of renewable energies in Switzerland.

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The majority of the Energy Commission of the State Council (Urek) wants to make much faster progress with the expansion of wind and solar energy. From the point of view of the environmental associations, however, it demands too great a sacrifice for this. These warn of a clear cut in nature conservation. The damage to nature is disproportionate to the benefit for energy production.

Everyone agrees with the first part. The Urek massively reinforces the expansion targets for renewable electricity production. By 2035, at least 35 terawatt hours should come from renewable energies (excluding hydropower). That is twice as much as the Federal Council had planned. For 2050, the deviation between the government’s targets and those of the Commission will then be smaller (39 versus 45 terawatt hours). This means that the Urek wants to build faster and stronger and thus quickly tackle the imminent gaps in the power supply.

The targets proposed by the Federal Council do not take into account the additional electricity demand due to decarbonization and do not do justice to the potential of renewable energies in Switzerland, the Commission wrote in a statement on Friday. She wants to promote the expansion with an additional subsidy instrument, the sliding market premium. This pays the producers the difference between production costs and the market price, if this is lower. The electricity companies Axpo and Alpiq had campaigned for the market premium. It is to be granted for 15 to 20 years and financed via the network surcharge fund. In addition, the investment contributions are still available.

The Commission does not want to increase the network surcharge of 2.3 centimes per kilowatt hour, which all end consumers pay with their electricity bills. On the other hand, the fund with which the subsidies are processed should be able to go into debt in the future. This is intended to compensate for periods with different levels of demand.

Wind farm on the Greina?

The accelerated expansion of renewables can only succeed if there are cutbacks in nature and environmental protection. A majority of the Urek think so. Achieving the expansion targets should take precedence over environmental law. In the case of water protection, specifications for residual water volumes in particular are to be suspended by 2035. Wind and solar power plants are also to be built in biotopes of national importance. Today’s ban is set to be lifted.

According to nature and environmental protection associations, several red lines are crossed. If the protection of the biotopes falls, the most valuable protected areas in Switzerland would be sacrificed for the construction of energy plants, they write in a statement. These included the Maderanertal, the Val Roseg or the Greina. These areas would make up two percent of the country’s area, but would be home to a third of all endangered animal species in Switzerland. The measures would provide little additional electricity in the short term. In the long term, they are not decisive for a secure energy supply. The decisions also torpedoed the compromise negotiated at a round table for the expansion of hydropower.

Representatives of the associations let it be known that they would hold a referendum against such a proposal. They hope that the Council of States or the National Council will correct the interventions in environmental protection and nature conservation. The Council of States will deal with the bill in the autumn session, which begins next Monday.

Opening of the electricity market does not come

According to the proposal, the Urek National Council and Council of States should also allow the construction of solar systems in the Alps in the autumn session and introduce a requirement for renewables in new buildings. Urgent treatment is required. This means that the law should already be in place after one session.

The Council of States does not want to know anything about the complete liberalization of the electricity market that the Federal Council had proposed. In the current situation with rising electricity prices, she would hardly have a chance with the electorate.

In view of the high energy prices, the Commission expects the Federal Council to take concrete countermeasures in the coming weeks. The Urek has lodged corresponding demands with Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga and representatives of Seco.

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