Photo: Steam emerges from a cooling tower of a nuclear power plant near the town of Leibstadt. (Reuters: Arnd Wiegmann)
Swiss voters have backed the Government's plan to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy, ban new nuclear plants and help bail out struggling utilities in a binding referendum.
- Provisional data shows nearly 60 per cent backed Government plan
- Solar and wind account for less than 5 per cent of Switzerland's energy output
- Voters get final say on major policy issues in Switzerland
The Swiss initiative mirrors efforts elsewhere in Europe to reduce dependence on nuclear power, partly sparked by Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Germany aims to phase out nuclear power by 2022, while Austria banned it decades ago.
"The results shows the population wants a new energy policy and does not want any new nuclear plants," Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said, adding the law would boost domestic renewable energy, cut fossil fuel use and reduce reliance on foreign supplies.
"The law leads our country into a modern energy future."Ms Leuthard said some parts of the law would take effect in early 2018 and the package would cost the average family 40 francs ($55) more a year, based on a higher grid surcharge to fund renewable subsidies.
Critics said a family of four would pay 3,200 Swiss francs ($4,410) in extra annual costs, while more intermittent wind and solar energy would mean a greater reliance on imported electricity.
Switzerland was a net power importer in 2016.
Environmentalists hail referendum resultMost parties and environmentalists hailed the result.
"The voting public has ... paved the way for a future that builds on sustainability, renewable energies and energy efficiency," the Social Democrats said."Today's decision is good for the climate, the environment, our jobs, the Swiss economy and the whole population."
The electrical and mechanical engineering sector, which opposed the law, said it was important to see how it was implemented.
"The problem of long-term security of electricity supplies must be resolved. It is also important for companies that the costs and the regulatory burden not swell," it said.
Under the law, 480 million francs ($660 million) will be raised annually from electricity users to fund investment in wind, solar and hydro power.
An additional 450 million francs ($620 million) will be set aside from an existing fossil fuels tax to help cut energy use in buildings by 43 per cent by 2035 compared with 2000 levels.
Solar and wind now account for less than 5 per cent of Switzerland's energy output, compared with 60 per cent for hydro and 35 per cent for nuclear.