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Energy policy in Switzerland

The devastating earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011 and the ensuing nuclear disaster at Fukushima led Switzerland to embark on a major re-think of its energy policy. It was not only the politicians who found themselves embroiled in a heated debate on nuclear energy. In Switzerland and elsewhere, concerned members of the public took to the streets to demonstrate and some even erected – largely peaceful – tent cities on the doorsteps of energy companies. The demands were the same: no to nuclear, yes to renewables.

On 25 May 2011 the federal government declared that nuclear power would be phased out gradually in Switzerland. Existing nuclear power stations will continue to run as long as they are safe but will not be replaced. In order to ensure security of supply in Switzerland once nuclear power has been phased out, the Federal Council plans to create a sustainable energy system by 2050 (Stichwort energy perspectives and energy strategy 2050)by introducing an effective set of measures, or action plan.

Renewable energies for electricity generation have been subsidised in Switzerland since the beginning of 2009 under the feed-in tariff scheme, or “cost-covering remuneration scheme for feed-in to the electricity grid”, as it is officially known. From 2013 an annual maximum amount of 500 million francs will be made available for this programme, funded via an extra charge on each kilowatt hour of electricity consumed.

At the end of 2009 the Federal Council decided to continue with the SwissEnergy Action Plan until 2020. SwissEnergy is the main national platform for economical and intelligent energy use and the use of renewable energy. Energy-saving measures are implemented by SwissEnergy in partnership with the cantons, municipalities, business and environmental organisations.

When it comes to reducing energy consumption, the Federal Council does not just want to encourage the public and industry to save energy on a voluntary basis; energy efficiency standards for domestic appliances, electronic appliances and electric motors should also be raised in order to ensure that devices which consume large amounts of energy can no longer be sold. The first energy efficiency standards (for refrigerators) were introduced in 2002. These were followed in 2009 by energy efficiency standards for household lamps, and in 2010 for other electronic appliances. These standards are set to a large extent in conformity with EU regulations and will continue to be raised and extended to other types of appliance in future.