Swiss cantons call on government to set fines for energy wasters

Swiss cantons call on government to set fines for energy wasters

Swiss cantons have submitted a letter calling on the government to create a system of regulations and fines, to prepare for if its energy-saving rules become mandatory. According to Blick, local and cantonal authorities want to know what parts of the energy austerity measures will be “enforced” in a worst-case scenario, and whose job it will be to enforce them.

Swiss cantons welcome new energy-saving campaign

On August 31, the Federal Council announced its new energy-saving campaign to help Switzerland avoid blackouts this winter. While most of the initial measures are voluntary, like reducing heating and switching off appliances when not in use, the government warned that stricter and mandatory measures like quotas and bans could be on the horizon if energy consumption is not reduced.

According to Blick, while many Swiss cantons welcomed the new guidelines, the announcement raised the question of how and who should “enforce” the new rules, should they become mandatory. Therefore, in a letter to the Federal Council, the Conference of Cantonal Energy Directors, along with the police and local governments, has asked authorities in Bern “what can and will be controlled, what will remain a recommendation, and what will become a rule?”

Authorities ask for the right to fine energy wasters in Switzerland

In addition, cantons have demanded the right to issue administrative fines to those who “contravene” energy-saving policy, if or when it becomes mandatory. However they did not want to make breaking the rules a criminal act, as it would involve “too much bureaucracy and [be] too demanding for the police”, the government of Basel told Blick.

Canton Lucerne pointed out that it remains “legally dubious” how the emergency services could carry out temperature checks inside buildings to make sure the rules are being followed. It also remains to be seen how certain laws, like restrictions on unnecessary lighting, could be defined and enforced.

Cantons want to avoid the "patchwork quilt" of laws in Switzerland

According to Blick, cantons want to avoid a similar situation to that seen early during the COVID pandemic where cantonal authorities were told to enforce their own restrictions, creating a “patchwork quilt” across the country. They are therefore calling for clear, uniform rules to be planned nationwide so that residents, entrepreneurs, cantons and councils (Gemeindes) can prepare.

Cantons hope that the letter will spur action amongst the Federal Council, which is only due to discuss the reaction of local authorities at the end of October. Blick concluded that concrete rules will likely only be announced on the eve of winter.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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