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Minister rejects criticism over atom opt-out

Energy Minister Doris Leuthard has hit back at criticism from business and the electricity industry over the government’s decision to phase out nuclear power by 2034.

She said in newspaper interviews that the electricity industry was strongly regulated and therefore sluggish and that there had not been enough investment in the electricity network.

The announcement on May 25 by the cabinet that it wanted to gradually decommission all of Switzerland’s nuclear power plants by 2034 has been denounced by the Swiss business federation economiesuisse as “questionable, contradictory and irresponsible”. Electricity utility Axpo spoke of a “fast decision made under big political pressure”.

Leuthard said in comments published in the Aargauer Zeitung and Südostschweiz on Saturday that the electricity industry’s sluggishness came from wanting to sell as much electricity as possible. “We want to verify which incentives are best suited to help achieve efficiency targets – mere turnover boost in terms of kilowatt hours must no longer be profitable,” she said.

Not enough has been invested, she added – in the past 15 years only 200 kilometres of network have been built instead of the 1,000km needed.

She said she had noted ecomoniesuisse’s criticism, but had also received many emails from the business world welcoming the atomic opt-out.

In an interview on public radio on Saturday, economiesuisse boss Gerold Bührer said that criticism was directed at the deadline and the way the decision had been communicated. He added was “unrealistic” to save so much energy before the opt-out, given the predicted population growth.

Economiesuisse wants to keep nuclear power as an option on condition that a new generation of reactors are brought onto the market, he said.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR