Referendum prevents accelerated planning of solar power plants in the Swiss canton of Valais

A referendum has rejected an option adopted by the government of the Swiss canton of Valais to speed up the implementation of large-scale solar projects. The canton had wanted to implement the new Article 71a of the national energy law, which provides a temporary option for accelerated planning until the end of 2025, with shorter approval procedures and a direct option for appeals to the cantonal court. Now, the process remains multi-stage, and the legal route for any opponents of a project goes through the State Council to the cantonal court and then to the federal court, significantly lengthening the matter. Projects currently in the planning stage are unlikely to be completed under these circumstances before the deadline provided for in the energy law, which is associated with significantly better subsidies, ends.
The referendum was preceded by a sometimes heated debate about solar projects planned in the Alpine region of Valais. In particular, a project in the municipality of Grengiols, initially planned with 250 megawatts but since scaled down to around 80 megawatts, was controversial. A project in the municipality of Gondo had also fueled the dispute.
In the municipalities affected by the concrete plans, the plebiscite resulted in a clear majority in favor of the bill, but a total of 42,161 eligible citizens voted »no«. With a turnout of only 35.7 percent, this was enough for a majority of just under 54 percent.

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