Swiss MPs give ‘Cleantech’ energy proposal a clear ‘no’

Energy was the topic of the day in the National Council yesterday, with MPs staging an hours-long debate on the “Cleantech” Initiative from the Social Democrats. The initiative urges a quick expansion of renewable energy sources in the country by 2030, claiming also to create jobs. The debate was polarizing at times though the vote tally was indisputable: 111 to 68 advising voters say no. WRS’s Tony Ganzer has highlights from the debate.

The Social Democrats’ Cleantech initiative is being sold to voters on many fronts. It will mandate the percentage of Swiss power from renewable sources be 50 percent by 2030. It is a job creator, proponents say, and it will allow Switzerland to be energy independent, a point Social Democrat Eric Nussbaumer emphasized.

NUSSBAUMER: “Faster pace with the changes to renewable energy are necessary if our country wants to reduce dependency on gas and oil from Russia or OPEC states. Who doesn’t want to quicken this pace, will awaken anger during the next energy fight over gas shortages or oil prices.”

Part of this will be accomplished by increasing energy efficiency, but also through targeted subsidies, which drew much criticism from the political right. They think subsidies spoil a free market. Hans Killer is a Swiss People’s Party MP from Aargau.

KILLER. “There are enough examples all over Europe, where an extreme government influence and intervention for renewable production leads. Spain is the most powerful example for bad policy.”

Spain and Germany were strong into the photo-voltaic production markets, and other technologies. But many companies felt the pinch when the economic crisis began pressuring many sectors of the economy. Still, Social Democrat Margret Kiener-Nellen from Bern said Switzerland needs a wake up.

KIENER-NELLEN: “Switzerland is still stuck sleeping when it comes to renewable energy. The initiative—new jobs thanks to renewable energy—gives us a push. A push for new sustainable jobs.”

But some opposition has rested on the idea of changing renewable targets at all. Swiss People’s Party MP Christoph Blocher.

BLOCHER: “I would be happy if we could finally vote about this adventurous energy policy you’re exaggerating. Mr. Girod you laugh—but I heard you, you don’t know what a strategy is. You said you are bringing three strategies and you bring three goals!”

Blocher’s appearance awoke questions from other MPs, especially after he suggested other another lawmaker use a Duden dictionary to learn about strategies. Social Democrat Jacqueline Badran said the Duden isn’t the only book with answers. Blocher replied.

BLOCHER: “I thank you for the witty instruction. I advised him to go to the Duden so he wouldn’t have to go to such a complicated book. But I must say I have led companies my whole life with strategies. And with goals you can’t do it.”

The National Council’s Environment, Planning, and Energy Committee has pursued amendments to the Energy Act as a kind of indirect counter-proposal to the Social Democrats’ Initiative.

If changes to business incentives or renewable targets are made before an initiative, maybe the initiative will be dropped. Supporters are waiting to see what the Council of States says before deciding what to do.

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