Swiss reject proposal for energy tax in referendum

Three different proposals for increased energy taxes have all been defeated in a referendum, resulting in disappointment for their backers, green groups and leftwingers, and relief for their business group and right-wing politician opponents.

Newspapers, including the Tribune de Genève speculated that rising fuel costs were to blame for the 24 September’s rejection of ‘green taxes’ on fuel.

The ‘Solar Initiative’, proposed by environmental organisations, had called for taxes of 0.005F Swiss Francs (US $0.003) per kilowatt hour (kWh) over 25 years on non-renewable energy sources with most of the proceeds going to support renewable energies. However, the proposal was defeated with a 69.7% ‘no’ vote.

Parliament’s ‘Counter-proposal’ taxing non-renewables at 0.003 francs ($0.002) per kWh over 15 years, with proceeds split between increasing energy efficiency, renewables and protecting hydro power as the electricity market is liberalised, was defeated by a 6.8% margin, although was supported by a majority in the cities.

The third proposal, the ‘Initiative Tax’, would have eventually increased tax on non-renewables to 0.02 francs ($0.01) per kWh with proceeds going to lower tax on salaries, but was defeated by a margin of 9.8%. All political parties had supported this measure, and were surprised by its defeat.

The defeat of the ‘Counter-proposal’ will now mean that hydro power stations will not be protected from the forthcoming opening-up of the electricity market, although the government says that it will provide them with loans “in exceptional cases”. Newspaper reports said that the loss of 200 million francs ($116 million) caused by the rejection of the tax has placed the electricity market’s opening and lower prices in danger.

Business groups were reported to have been pleased with the results, which were a blow to environmentalists, who are also unhappy that, because of the outcome of the referendum, the budget for a national programme promoting alternative energies will not be increased. As a result, left-wing political parties will now further push for the quick implementation of a carbon dioxide tax, which has already been approved by parliament.

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