Published:  12:56 AM, 20 May 2017

Referendum to be held in Switzerland this weekend

Switzerland will head to the polls this weekend to vote in a controversial renewable energy bill that would scrap nuclear power plants and could see families forced to spend thousands more on electricity bills, reports The new energy law titled Energy Strategy 2050, if approved, will see the state boost its solar, wind, biomass, hydro and geothermal energy productions.

New nuclear power plants will be banned - and the country's five existing facilities will be phased out, with the first closing in 2019. However, citizens could face huge price hikes on electricity as the government scrambles to raise £378million to support new renewable supplies and energy efficiency.

Voters will head to the polls on Sunday to determine the future of the law. And so far, polling suggests the bill will be approved in the binding referendum, although support has dwindled in recent months. The strategy was devised following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 - after an earthquake in Japan triggered a deadly meltdown at the power plant in the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl incident.

Headed by energy minister Doris Leuthard, the plan mirrors similar efforts across Europe to phase out nuclear power - most prominently seen in Germany where the last reactor is scheduled to go offline in 2022. While in nearby Austria nuclear energy was banned decades ago. And the ban is set to help Switzerland boost its renewable energy sector - which currently accounts for under five per cent of the country's energy output compared with 60 per cent for hydro and 35 per cent for nuclear.

The new law wants to raise renewable energies to at least 11,400 gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2035 from the current 2,831 GWh rate. But the measures will see energy company customers face huge price raises. Critics say a family of four would pay £2,521 in extra annual costs and say more intermittent wind and solar energy would mean a greater reliance on imported electricity.

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