Wind turbines are pictured at Swisswinds farm, Europe's highest wind farm at 2500m, before the topping out ceremony near the Nufenen Path in Gries, Switzerland September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
ZURICH, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The Swiss government on Thursday raised its bid to shift the country towards more renewable energy with proposals to sweeten incentives for installing solar panels and expedite approvals for new hydroelectric and wind power plants.
With much of Switzerland's potential for hydropower expansion already utilised, the country is looking to boost wind and solar energy to hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
But plans to curtail emissions have faced setbacks at the ballot box, while new wind and renewable energy parks have faced opposition, leading to long wait times and the need to scale back projects.
Now, in a bid to get projects completed more quickly while aligning these with concerns for nature and the surrounding environment, the government proposed designating key sites for wind and hydroelectric projects across the country and streamlining their approval.
To meet targets for expanding renewable energy, "adjustments are needed to the planning and approval procedures for constructing new plants as well as for expanding and converting existing plants," the government said in a statement. "Today, these take too long."
Large wind and hydroelectric projects sometimes took more than two decades to finish, the government noted, too long as it aims to halve emissions by 2030.
Under the government's "Energy Strategy 2050", Switzerland plans to increase production of energy from renewables and hydro generation as it phases out nuclear energy, targeting an additional 2 terawatts of greener electricity output by 2040.
Under the new proposals, the government's centralised plan would serve as a guideline for local authorities' planning and permitting, which are to be folded into one process, while also eliminating the prospect that multiple different challenges be levied in courts.
The government also said it wanted to increase solar power by making investments into photovoltaic systems tax deductible for both renovations and new buildings, while simplifying the approval process for solar panels to be installed not only on roofs but also on facades.
The draft measures have been sent into consultation through May 23.
Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by David Gregorio
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