The construction of large alpine solar systems can be advanced. The referendum against the new energy law failed.
Ruedi StuderBundeshaus Editor
The SVP has its referendum against the new climate target law in the dry and submits it to the Federal Chancellery on January 19th. However, a second energy policy referendum is still running in the background – the one against the solar offensive in the Energy Act, which Parliament has pushed through at breakneck speed. This also paves the way for large solar power plants in the Alps.
The referendum against the “urgent measures for the short-term provision of a secure power supply in winter”, as the proposal is officially called, was taken by the non-party Basel bidder Toni Grüter (58) – a brother of the Lucerne SVP National Councilor Franz Grüter (59).
Only 100 signatures
But while the electorate is expected to decide at the ballot box on June 18th about the SVP referendum and thus the net zero climate target, they have nothing to say about the alpine solar offensive. The referendum deadline is January 19th. And Grüter only collected “about 100” signatures, as he explains when asked. The referendum thus failed.
There are reasons why there weren’t more signatures. Grüter simply lacked the support of larger organizations or parties. “Everyone considered the referendum to be hopeless or even counterproductive,” he says. That’s why he actually stopped collecting signatures in November. “I didn’t want to act against local people.”
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The fact that Grüter launched the referendum at all is also due to the fact that he knows the Saflisch valley. In other words, the place where an alpine solar power plant could be built with the large-scale Grengiols Solar project – at least according to the plans of the hotelier and former SP President Peter Bodenmann (70).
“Attack on the Alps”
“Large-scale solar systems in the Alps not only destroy a lot, they also don’t solve the problem of an energy shortage, at least not in the short term,” says Grüter. «The installation of a gas power plant in Birr speaks a clear language.» He also refers to a study by the Zürcher Kantonalbank, according to which the solar potential is higher in the cities than in the mountains.
Grüter complains that Switzerland has been sleeping through the expansion of alternative energies for decades. And: “There isn’t really a discussion about solar energy in Switzerland.”
Grüter is also bothered by the fact that the urgent law was ultimately only subject to an optional rather than a mandatory referendum. “This means that democratic practices are overridden without solving the problem.” For him it is therefore clear: «The solar offensive is an attack on the Alps and on democracy. But I care about both.”
Regulations planned for March
With the failure of the referendum, the way is clear for the Energy Act, which came into force on October 1, 2022. In particular, also for large alpine solar systems, which under certain conditions can also be created without planning requirements.
This should allow larger production volumes to be added quickly and easily, primarily for the winter. The federal government’s declared goal is for solar systems in the mountains to produce 2,000 gigawatt hours by the end of 2025. For comparison: Today, Switzerland consumes 58,000 gigawatt hours of electricity per year.
The Federal Council is currently preparing the ordinances to implement the law, which are expected to come into force on March 1, 2023.
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