Swiss Parliament weakens natural environment defense by facilitating construction of photovoltaic vegetation – Commentary

Preparing obligation and environmental influence evaluation

Design of photovoltaic vegetation
New polices for the use of solar energy


In light-weight of the imminent energy and electric power lack, Parliament has talked over the introduction of simplifications in the acceptance process for large photovoltaic vegetation, in unique in alpine locations. The proposed amendments and steps have been criticised from a authorized and environmental point of view.

On 30 September 2022, Parliament adopted a revision of the Swiss Electrical power Act,(1) titled “urgent steps to offer the brief term a protected wintertime ability source”. The revision introduces different procedural and materials simplifications that are possible to have a considerable impression on nature and biodiversity.

Because Parliament declared the revision of the Electricity Act to be urgent, the new measures and simplifications entered into force on 1 October 2022 and will implement till 31 December 2025.

Arranging obligation and environmental effect evaluation

Normally, the arranging, building and modification of substantial installations with sizeable and far-achieving impacts on house and setting is subject matter to a basic planning obligation and an environmental influence assessment.

The scheduling obligation is assessed on a case-by-scenario basis considering the predicted impacts of a distinct installation. As a rule, a organizing obligation applies to installations subject to an environmental impression evaluation as nicely as other huge installations with a significant effect on space. The Swiss Ordinance on the Environmental Effects Assessment (OEIA) defines the types of installations topic to an environmental impact assessment.(2)

With the arranging obligation and the environmental influence assessment, the Swiss legislature obliges the involved authorities to conduct a thorough evaluation of all expected results of the projected installations. These kinds of assessments incorporate the balancing of all pertinent pursuits – particularly, passions of:

  • environmental defense
  • safety of landscape and mother nature
  • protection of biotopes and species and
  • safety of drinking water and forest.

The instrument of environmental impression assessments also has a procedural facet. If an set up is topic to an environmental affect assessment, non-revenue organisations have a legal suitable of attraction from these types of assignments.(3) The correct of attraction is routinely used in practice to have the courts assessment the compliance of a challenge with the regulation.

Construction of photovoltaic vegetation

Just before the new polices enacted, the organizing, design and modification of photovoltaic crops with an installed overall performance of additional than five megawatts ‒ which are not connected to a making ‒ was matter to an environmental impression assessment.(4) The cantons had to determine the applicable proceeding, but the environmental impression evaluation had to take spot in the context of a allow, acceptance or concession course of action.

In addition, the design of big photovoltaic vegetation was frequently subject to a arranging obligation. This demanded a neighborhood land use prepare or a special land use plan and potentially a foundation in the cantonal construction prepare.

As effectively as the arranging obligation, if the internet site in concern was positioned outside the house the constructing zone, an extraordinary acceptance was essential as very well.

Till 30 September 2022, the general public fascination in these kinds of photovoltaic plants did not prevail in excess of interests of environmental defense. Relatively, the curiosity in securing ample electricity offer experienced the identical if not considerably less fat than other pursuits, significantly with regards to the security of landscape and nature.

New rules for use of photo voltaic electrical power

Special routine for building of large photovoltaic plants

In get to enable the quickly design of massive photovoltaic vegetation on vacant land, Parliament executed a new write-up 71a in the Energy Act. The new provision lowers each the material and the procedural requirements for the development of massive photovoltaic crops. Both cantonal and communal authorities are sure by the new provision.

Huge photovoltaic crops need to fulfil the pursuing requirements:

  • an yearly least output of vitality of 10 gigawatt hours and
  • energy production in between 1 October and 31 March of a minimum of 500 kilowatt several hours for every a person kilowatt put in functionality.

For a transitory interval right up until 31 December 2025, or right up until substantial-scale photovoltaic installations with a full yearly production of up to two terawatt hours have been realised, the following facilitations apply for the design of large photovoltaic vegetation that fulfill the higher than necessities:

  • their require is deemed given
  • the community desire of a national great importance in their realisation is deemed provided and by law prevails about other national, regional or community pursuits (in individual landscape and mother nature protection interests)
  • the requirement of a specified area (place bound element) is considered presented and
  • no setting up obligations use on the cantonal and communal degree.

Explicitly excluded is the realisation of these kinds of new, significant photovoltaic plants in:

  • moors and wetlands that are of distinctive magnificence and nationwide worth
  • biotopes of national value and
  • water and migratory chicken reserves.

Under this new routine, the respective canton grants the needed development allow immediately after owning attained the approval from the worried community and the landowner.

Obligation to use solar strength for new properties

Article 45a of the Energy Act stipulates that all new structures with a suitable setting up place of extra than 300 sq. metres have to mandatorily be outfitted with a photo voltaic set up on the roof or façade (eg, a photovoltaic or a solar thermal procedure).

The cantons are capable to regulate exemptions, especially if the generation of a solar set up:

  • contradicts other public laws
  • is technically not probable or
  • is economically disproportional.

Also, the cantons are permitted to extend this obligation to buildings with a decreased appropriate developing spot than 300 sq. metres.


Although the new laws for the use of photo voltaic electrical power are comprehensible from an energy provide point of view, it may possibly be questioned regardless of whether this justifies these kinds of proscribing mechanisms for the security of the ecosystem and spatial organizing.

With the repeal of a setting up obligation, the building of significant photovoltaic crops only needs a uncomplicated constructing allow. A right alignment of these installations with the preparing system and a comprehensive balancing of passions is not needed any more.

The effects of the typical subordination of other nationwide, regional or neighborhood interests these as landscape and mother nature defense are even much more significantly-reaching. This not only boundaries, but completely stops any assessment of conflicting passions by authorities and the courts. Also, in see of large pursuits in electrical power supply, it is important to somehow consider surroundings security interests when examining a projected massive photovoltaic plant. Usually, there is a danger of damages to mother nature and biodiversity.

Just after a facultative referendum against this revision of the Strength Act unsuccessful for the reason that of an insufficient amount of signatures, the new restrictions will continue on to use right until 31 December 2025, except if repealed or modified earlier by Parliament.

For further more info on this subject matter please contact Michael Lips or Larissa Rickenbacher at Pestalozzi Lawyers at Law by phone (+41 44 217 91 11) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Pestalozzi Attorneys at Legislation web page can be accessed at


(1) Vitality Act, SR 730.

(2) Ordinance on the Environmental Effect Evaluation, Annex, SR 814 011.

(3) Write-up 55(1) of the Environmental Security Act, SR 814 01.

(4) Ordinance on the Environmental Affect Assessment, Annex, section 21, No. 21.9, SR 814 011.