Swiss propose priority status for clean power

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Priority status for renewables is part of a draft law for liberalisation of the Swiss electricity market to be discussed in parliament next month. The draft is one of three measures to determine Swiss energy policy in the next century and makes provision for major consumers to select the electricity supplier of their choice. Once in force the law will open 20% of the Swiss market to competition immediately, with full liberalisation after nine years.

The renewable energy clause is already meeting opposition, says Robert Horbaty from the wind energy program at the Bundesamt für Energie (BFE), the federal energy office. The Swiss utilities association (VSE) protests that a requirement for uptake of renewable energy interferes in the free market. VSE has no such qualms, however, about requiring the market to pay for its past mistakes. It is willing to accept a proposed surcharge of CHF 0.004/kWh on power prices for ten years to help pay back stranded investments from nuclear and hydro.

The legislation will probably take several years before it is passed, says Horbaty, and is currently the subject of heated debate. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and therefore not bound by the EU electricity Directive.

Greenhouse gas law

Meanwhile, Swiss politicians have proposed a separate measure to decrease CO2 emissions 10% by 2010 at 1990 levels. The measure has been introduced after the upper house of parliament refused to endorse a tax on fossil fuels and nuclear energy that the lower house had passed (Windpower Monthly, July 1997).

In October, plans were also discussed for an ecological tax reform, where income from an energy tax would offset tax incentives for renewable energies while helping to reduce the social cost of labour. The lower house has proposed taxing all non renewable energy at CHF 0.06/kWh for a period of 25 years, raising CHF 1 billion. The revenue would be shared: 25% to promote wind, wood biomass and solar energy; 25% to subsidise hydro electricity; 25% for thermal insulation of buildings, and 25% to the federal government.

Some are claiming, however, that this plan is unconstitutional because the funds are not be returned to the public. A counter proposal from the upper house includes a stiffer tax on uranium and fossil fuels to be written into the constitution to raise about CHF 2.5 billion per year. From this money, only 10% would be used to promote renewables, leaving the rest to reduce the social costs of labour.

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