Energy issues at the ballot box

Concerns about the environment have increased support for solar power Keystone

The three energy-related proposals are all aimed at introducing a levy on the use of non-renewable energy sources. But there are differences over the intended purpose and the amount of the tax surcharge.

This content was published on September 6, 2000 - 16:01

The Solar Initiative proposes a constitutional change to introduce a tax surcharge on non-renewable energy, such as nuclear power, gas and petroleum.

It envisages a levy on energy bills of SFr0.01 rising to SFr0.05 per kilowatt hour within the first five years. This is expected to raise about SFr750 million annually over 25 years.

The revenue could be used to promote more sparing energy consumption and alternative energy sources. According to the proposal, at least half of the money raised would go towards encouraging the use of solar energy.

Supporters, including the Social Democratic Party and the Greens, argue that the initiative would reduce poisonous CO2 emissions by at least 10 per cent.

However, the government and parliament, as well as the business community and the main centre-right parties have come out against the Solar Initiative. They say the initiative provides insufficient protection for the energy industry, which fears it will suffer as a result of the forthcoming deregulation of the electricity market.

Parliament and the government have come out in favour of a counter-proposal. It envisages a surcharge of SFr0.03 on non-renewable energy over a period of 10 to 15 years.

The proceeds, estimated at about SFr450 million annually, would be used to promote all renewable forms of energy, especially hydroelectric plants. It is envisaged that the proposal would be combined with a plan for an energy leverage contribution.

A third proposal, backed by parliament and government, seeks to introduce a maximum surcharge of SFr0.2 per kilowatt hour. It is expected to result in SFr3 billion in revenues per year.

Under the proposal, the revenue would be returned to individuals and businesses to be used for social insurance.

Proponents say this would help protect the environment because it encourages consumers to favour renewable forms of energy over petroleum or electricity derived from nuclear power.

However, the business community and other opponents say a planned tax on CO2 emissions would be more effective. It's due to come into force if emissions are not reduced to 1990 levels by 2010.

by Fiona Fleck

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