Public vetoes three energy taxes --Disappointment for Swiss wind

In a disappointing decision for the wind industry, voters in Switzerland have turned down three initiatives to increase taxes on non-renewable energy. Proposed were an ecological incentive tax of CHF 0.02/kWh, a promotional energy tax of CHF 0.03/kWh -- to be invested in renewables -- and a solar initiative of CHF 0.01/kWh rising gradually to CHF 0.05/kWh over 20 years. The government will now go ahead with its original plan of imposing a levy of up to CHF 210/tonne carbon dioxide on non-renewable energies from 2004.

The aim of the CO2 levy is a 10% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2010. It is widely expected to cause the price of heating and transportation fuels to rise dramatically, by as much as 45% for petrol. "It's crazy," comments Robert Horbaty of Swiss Éole, the national wind association. "All over Europe, people have lately been on the streets fighting for lower petrol prices. In turning down the referendum proposals, the Swiss have spoken out against renewables and at the same time agreed to higher petrol prices."

He shrugs off the initial despondency of the tiny Swiss wind sector. "It is business as usual for Swiss Éole," he says. The association is pressing for the pending reform of electricity market legislation to anchor the present recommended feed-in tariff of CHF 0.15/kWh for wind power into the law. "This will happen if the government implements plans for a high voltage grid operating company and includes a contribution for renewables in the grid usage fee," says Horbaty. The law reform was passed by the Swiss lower house in September and is due before the upper house before the end of the year. But it, too, may end up going to a people's vote at a national referendum, he adds.