More than 58 percent of Swiss voters supported a measure to phase out nuclear power in favor of renewable energy.
The plan provides billions in subsidies for renewable energy, bans the construction of new nuclear plants and decommissions Switzerland’s five aging reactors. There is no clear date when the plants will close.
“The results shows the population wants a new energy policy and does not want any new nuclear plants,” Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said, noting the law would also cut fossil fuel use and reduce reliance on foreign supplies.
“The law leads our country into a modern energy future,” she said, and added that some parts of the law would take effect in early 2018.
Nuclear currently provides about a third of the country’s electricity while solar and wind only accounts for five percent.
Under the law, billions in subsidies will be raised annually from electricity users to fund investment in renewable energy sources.
The legislation calls for solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources to rise at least 11,400 gigawatt hours by 2035 from 2,831 gigawatt hours now.
The plan also aims to cut the average energy consumption per person per year by 16 percent by 2020 and by 43 percent by 2035 compared to 2000 levels.
Switzerland is following in the footsteps of other European countries that are reducing its reliance on nuclear power in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster back in 2011. Germany is also closing its nuclear plants by 2022.
Opponents worry that the shift away from nuclear energy will be too costly. While Leuthard said financing renewables will cost an average family 40 Swiss francs ($41) a year, other critics warn that the cost might be much higher, at 3,200 Swiss francs ($3,290) in extra annual costs.
But the president of Switzerland’s Green party, Regula Rytz, called Sunday’s referendum a “moment of historic change.”
“The Swiss population has said ‘no’ to the construction of new nuclear power plants and yes to the development of renewable energy,” Rytz added.
“The conditions have also been set whereby the economy and households will need to take responsibility for the future. It’s absolutely magnificent.”