Backed by a coalition of political, business and environmental groups, the “electrical efficiency” proposal was filed in Bern on Tuesday.
Supporters said conservation measures could eliminate the need for the production of electricity from four to six power stations, such as the nuclear-powered Mühleberg plant.
More efficient electrical use would also eliminate Switzerland’s reliance on electricity imported from other countries, the coalition said.
The potential for savings is enormous “without harming our way of living or our comfort,” Ruedi Noser, a Liberal-Radical MP from Zurich, who heads the initiative committee, told a press conference.
Switzerland currently uses 58.6 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, an amount that the federal energy department expects will grow 23 percent by 2035 unless changes in consumption patterns occur.
The country faces a challenge also from a government decision last year to abandon nuclear power, with the last of the country’s existing four nuclear plants scheduled to go offline in 2034.
However, the coalition said around a third of the electricity produced in the country is lost through inefficiencies.
The goal is to set a limit on energy use while leaving it up to the federal and cantonal governments to decide what specific measures are needed to achieve this.
But the initiative’s backers say gains can be made quite quickly simply by mandating more efficient lighting and better industrial applications.
The proposal is supported by MPs, acting on an individual basis, from a wide political spectrum, from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party to the Greens,.
Scientists, entrepreneurs and environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, also signed on to the initiative.
The group hopes to gather enough signatures by 2013 to put the issue to a national vote for adoption in the Swiss constitution.