Swiss power liberalisation plans delayed

Government decides to wait for autumn referendums on energy taxes, renewables

The Swiss energy industry will have to wait for the outcome of forthcoming national referendums on energy before market liberalisation can proceed, one of Switzerland's two parliamentary houses decided on Wednesday after heated discussions. The popular votes were first planned for this spring (ENDS Daily 8 October 1999), but are now due to be held on 24 September.

The referendums include three energy-related items, all aimed at increasing taxes on non-renewable energy consumption. One proposal is for an ecological incentive tax of SFr0.003 (euros 0.002) per kilowatt hour should, to be levied on all non-renewable energies. Swiss industry is strongly against the idea. National industry association Vorort attacked the parliament's decision to delay market liberalisation and pledged to fight any new energy taxes.

Another key battleground is whether revenue from one of the proposed taxes should be earmarked to subsidise hydroelectric plants, which currently provide much of Switzerland's electricity. The government is divided over the plan, which is being most strongly opposed by the so-called "mountain cantons" which own many existing hydroelectric dams. They and the Swiss Green party fear that hydroelectricity will not be able to compete in a liberalised electricity market without support.

Follow Up:
Swiss energy agency: +41 31 322 5611; Swiss parliament, information@pd.admin.ch; Vorort, tel: +41 1 389 9300, and press release.

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