Energy ministry plans to double amount of wood used for energy

Energy ministry hopes increased wood consumption will help those who suffered from the damage Hurricane "Lothar" inflicted last December Keystone

Switzerland's energy ministry has announced it plans to double the amount of wood used as a source of energy by 2010. Five million cubic metres of wood will be burned for energy purposes each year for the next decade.

This content was published on August 28, 2000 - 23:43

In the initial phase of the energy programme, the ministry announced that the wood from the trees that were destroyed in December's Hurricane "Lothar" would be turned into firewood. This phase would run until 2003 and cost SFr45 million.

The aim of the programme is to increase the long-term sales of firewood. The ministry said it hopes to double the consumption of firewood.

The energy ministry believes that there is no better way to use the wood destroyed by Hurricane "Lothar". "The programme presented combines in one package two important tasks. First to help those who suffered from the enormous damage inflicted by the storms," said Urs Ritschard, spokesman at the energy ministry.

The second aim of the programme is to support "the better use of wood energy in Switzerland. That means a partial return to a traditional environmental energy source," Ritschard said.

By increasing the consumption of firewood, the ministry hopes to support the construction of new models of heating which rely on wood. Also, the programme aims to help the design and production of wood storage equipment/machines.

Government subsidies would cover between 40 and 60 per cent of extra costs incurred. "The subsidies would breathe new life into wood energy in our cantons," said Jean-Luc Juvet, head of the energy service of canton Neuchatel.

Increasing the use of wood burning as a source of energy, albeit renewable, is a potential source of contention. But the energy ministry believes that burning wood is an environmentally sound way to produce heat.

"Together with hydroelectric power, wood burning is the most important domestic form of energy," said Ritschard.

The issue at the heart of the Rio environmental summit in 1992 was the global reduction of carbon dioxide emissions which is responsible, in large part, for the green house gas effect.

Ritschard defended Switzerland's drive to promote wood burning, saying that it had chosen to fulfil the aims of the Rio summit. For example, Ritschard said, "furnaces are required to adhere to strict emissions critrea."

Ritschard explained that Switzland's main tool to reach the summit's aims is the action programme, Energy 2000. "It is based on two main strategies: the efficient use of energy and the intensified use of renewable energies. Both help to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide," he said.

The energy ministry's initiatives do depend on a nationwide vote on September 24 for the final green light. If the people support the programme, then it could be extended beyond 2003.

swissinfo with agencies

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