BERN, SWITZERLAND – The federal government announced Wednesday morning 26 September the signing of a contract between the federal energy department and the Chavalon natural gas power plant in Vouvry, canton Valais.
Environmental group WWF promptly jumped on it as an unacceptable example of “greenwashing” and “dishonest” practices, sending the first salvos of what could prove to be a new battle over energy sources in the country.
Company’s promotional video
The project is being promoted by some politicians and the company , Centrale Thermique de Vouvry SA (CTV), as part of the solution to growing energy needs following Switzerland’s decision to close its nuclear power plants. The Tribune de Geneve recently noted that it will take six such fossil fuel power plants to replace nuclear ones, and the CTV plant is the most advanced of these projects.
Its advantage, according to the Tribune is that the site already exists; an oil plant produced energy in the same spot until 1999; electric power is already in place to serve the plant and the oil pipeline can easily be replaced by a gas pipeline.
Swiss CO2 emissions law forces natural gas power plants to compensate their CO2 emissions, with 70 percent of this in Switzerland. The details must be part of a contract between the Federal Office for the Environment, Ofev, and the company.
The company was given a building permit in 2009, although several groups have been opposing it. CTV expects to have the power plant running by 2018.
Ofev says the new contract details the company’s obligations, with most foreign compensation paid for through energy certificates and with Switzerland benefiting long-term from the power plant’s investments in alternative energy.
Not so, says the WWF, which says the contract falls short in three areas:
Les défauts du contrat en détail:
- The contract does not include a single climate protection project, which means it is impossible to check concretely that compensation is really taking place.
- The power plant is under no obligation to provide compensation during its first 10 years of operation. WWF insists that compensation must take place as of the first year of operation of the plant.
- The mechanism and amounts for any sanctions are not provided. “For WWF one thing is clear: the amount of the sanctions must be sufficiently high to ensure that real compensation for emissions takes place. If compensation is inadequate, the operating permit must be withdrawn, effective immediately.”