After a request concert in the Council of States: the Commission keeps a cool head in the solar offensive
Solar energy, whatever the cost: that was the motto when the Council of States approved large-scale solar systems in the Alps last week – and practically eliminated environmental protection. However, the National Council commission goes too far. She has now corrected it.
It should be the big hit: defuse the energy crisis and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Basically killing two birds with one stone. The plan of the Council of States should succeed thanks to an unprecedented solar offensive. Large photovoltaic systems in the mountains should be built in an urgent process. For this, the small chamber wanted to effectively undermine environmental protection.
The request not only caused a controversy in terms of content. The procedure also triggered criticism: the small chamber smuggled its plan into the debate on the indirect counter-proposal to the glacier initiative. In its tow, the energy turbos of the State Council wanted to smuggle their most important desires through Parliament at high speed.
Next week will show whether that will work. If no, this is thanks to the Environment Commission of the National Council. This rejected the State Council request concert and did not allow itself to be infected by the hyperactivism. After several sessions this week, she immediately readjusted the template in various ways. This emerges from the draft law published on Friday.
The principle applied here: more weight should be given to environmental protection. The assessment of the Federal Office of Justice, as has become public through an indiscretion in the past few days, may also have contributed to this. It considers the solar offensive to be unconstitutional, as the federal lawyers informed the members of the National Council commission in a letter.
So the question is: Can the project be implemented properly in terms of constitutional law? If you believe the SP energy politician Roger Nordmann, the National Council’s environmental commission has succeeded in squaring the circle: “Habemus lex solaris alpina”, the Vaud native rejoiced on the short message service Twitter.
Habemus lex solaris alpina.
Et in the respect of the Constitution!
— Roger Nordmann (@NordmannRoger) September 22, 2022
Biotope are a no-go
For the Environment Commission of the National Council, one thing is clear: the energy transition must not come at the expense of nature. Unlike the Council of States, she does not want to exempt solar systems from the environmental impact assessment. Potential investors should also have to submit a profitability calculation. Only the planning obligation should be omitted.
The National Council Commission also sees a need for action in the areas in which no plants may be built. The Council of States had only explicitly excluded moorland from the solar offensive. However, the Commission now also intends to ban biotopes of national importance as well as water and migratory bird reserves.
«Greatest possible protection»
Meanwhile, the commission is also taking a more differentiated approach to landscapes in the federal inventory of landscapes and natural monuments. The construction of photovoltaic systems is permitted in these areas. However, the obligation to “maximum conservation” remains. “Restoration and replacement measures” must also be taken.
In the Council of States, this application by Uri’s Central Councilor Heidi Z’graggen was rejected by 24 to 17 votes. The Commission and the Council of States agree that the solar systems must be completely dismantled as soon as they are taken out of service.
Yes to a higher Grimsel dam – is the referendum coming?
The Commission has also decided to include the raising of the dam wall on the Grimsel in the proposal. This project in the Bernese Oberland has been blocked for years.
According to the urgent draft law, which will only be in force for two years, it should not be subject to a mandatory referendum. The people should therefore only have the last word if there is still resistance to the solar offensive of the parliament. This is most likely to be expected from environmental and nature conservation associations.