On May 21, 58% of Swiss voters came out in favor of Switzerland’s Energy Strategy 2050 program, which is expected to impose major cuts on the reliance on nuclear power for energy in Switzerland. According to the Energy Strategy 2050, Switzerland’s nuclear power will be phased out gradually starting 2019, and the country’s five reactors will be shut down if no longer safe. Nuclear power currently provides 38% of energy produced in Switzerland.

While environmentalists are cheering at this news, Felix Müri, a parliamentarian opposed to the amended law, says he is convinced the price of the reform is much higher for consumers than predicted. The government first initiated the program in 2011 on the heels of the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan.

Although Swiss parliament approved the strategy a year ago, due to some objections the right wing Swiss People’s Party had on the framework, the party demanded that a nationwide vote be held. Moreover, parts of the Swiss business community and some environmental groups weren’t great fans of the strategy either.

Energy Strategy 2050

IEA DSM Workshop, Horw, 16.10.2013.

The Federal Council and Parliament’s decision to progressively withdraw the country from nuclear energy production, together with further far-reaching changes in the international energy environment, requires the Swiss energy system to be upgraded and developed; which brings the Federal Council to draft the Energy Strategy 2050. This continues and intensifies the strategic thrust of the Energy Strategy 2007, which rested on four pillars: energy efficiency, renewable energies, replacement and new construction of large power plates for electricity production as well as the nuclear power plates, and external energy policy.

Supporters of the program say the law will make the country less dependent on energy imports while maintaining its high supply standard. They argue that it will also help reduce Switzerland’s energy-related environmental impact. However, people on the other side of the argument warn of a potential energy shortage, and high costs for consumers as well as excessive bureaucracy.

By this, Switzerland joins a number of European countries and cities that have taken the leap to put environmentally-conscious strategies into force. On March 14, Amsterdam’s City Council presented a five-year-plan to implement an energy transition plan that will be completed by 2030. “In pursuing this strategy, we are deliberately and literally making room for the development of new activities and innovations,” Port of Amsterdam’s Chief Executive Koen Overtoom said. The plan breaks down into: increasing activity per square metre, attracting start-ups and scale-ups, ensuring diversification and innovation for the purpose of accelerating the energy transition and – finally – cutting down on coal reliance. The Port of Amsterdam is the fourth largest port in Western Europe to find coal volumes fall 7.5% to 16 million tons in the last year. It expects a further 29% decrease over the next five years.

Several European governments, significantly those of Germany and Poland, have stopped burning coal or announced phase-out plans over the next 15 years, deeming it as one of the cheapest ways to wipe out greenhouse gas emissions.