The Uzbek president's daughter controlled central Asia's hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

"/> The Uzbek president's daughter controlled central Asia's hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

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ENERGY

Uzbek gas exports ‘controlled through Swiss firm’

The Uzbek president's daughter controlled central Asia's hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

The Uzbek president’s daughter controlled central Asia’s hydrocarbons market through a Swiss-based firm that handled 80 percent of the country’s gas exports, US diplomatic cables showed Thursday.

According to the newspaper Le Temps, which obtained the cables from WikiLeaks, the documents showed that Gulnara Karimova was the effective boss of Zeromax, a Swiss-based energy firm which was declared bankrupt in August 2010.

According to a 2007 cable quoted by the Swiss paper, Zeromax “siphons off 80 percent of natural gas exports” of Uzbekistan.

“Through Zeromax, Gulnara Karimova controlled tightly the hydrocarbon sector of the third biggest gas producer of the ex-USSR,” it added.

The 38-year-old daughter of Uzbekistan’s veteran President Islam Karimov is a “key intermediary for all contracts,” according to the cable.

Another cable dated 2010 said that Zeromax was one of the “main Swiss recipients of funds from Uzbekistan”. This contributes to making Switzerland the second biggest trading parter of the central Asian state, said Le Temps.

According to the newspaper, US diplomats estimated the annual business of the company at $3 billion, which corresponds to 10 percent of the country’s annual output.

Karimova has been living since 2008 in the chic Geneva suburb of Cologny, after she was named Uzbekistan’s representative to the United Nations.  

According to the cables, the appointment was regarded by some observers as a way to tighten control over Zeromax.

It could also be a pre-emptive move to ensure that the Karimovs have an overseas base were they to lose power or leave the country, added the cables.

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ENERGY

How can you save on your household energy bills in Switzerland?

Like almost everything else in Switzerland, the price of electricity is high here. These are some strategies for reducing your energy costs.

There are several strategies to lower energy costs in Switzerland.
Installing solar panels on the roof could save on energy costs in the long term, but there are other ways as well to reduce bills. Photo by Vivint Solar from Pexels

If you are a tenant, your energy consumption costs may be included in your rent. But if you are a home or apartment owner, you have to pay these charges yourself. And they can be quite expensive.

Depending on the kind and size of dwelling you live in, your energy bills could add up to several thousand francs each year.

And winters in Switzerland can get quite cold, with temperatures dropping to minus 30 degrees in some parts of the country on certain years.

READ MORE: Switzerland weather: Snow and rain forecast in various regions

So unless you are lucky enough to have a wood-burning fireplace which radiates heat throughout your house, sitting under the blanket and drinking hot cocoa may not be enough to keep you warm on those chilly winter days — though it does sound very cosy.

Most people will probably crank up their heat, and as many Swiss households use electric power for heat, that may get quite expensive.

In fact, a household in Switzerland spends on average between a half and full monthly salary on its energy consumption each year, according to a price comparison site bonus.ch.

However, “with small, simple actions to perform on a daily basis, it is possible to reduce energy consumption and save money, without sacrificing comfort”.Bonus.ch said.

Here are some common-sense energy-saving measures the site outlines to keep electricity bills down: 

  • Use heat in moderation, setting the temperature according to the size of the room and how often it is being used. Unoccupied rooms should not be heated at all.
  • Turn off the light when leaving a room (this advice is logical and reasonable, and yet many people neglect to do so).
  • Shut down electrical appliances such as TV and computers completely when not in use,  or even unplug them altogether.
  • Use appliances with the energy label “A”, LED lamps and energy-saving bulbs, avoiding devices with high energy consumption, such as aquariums and fan heaters.
  • In terms of water consumption, typically a resident of Switzerland uses a little more than 160 litres of water daily, of which around one-third is hot, according to bonus.ch.

To reduce hot water consumption, take (quick) showers rather than baths, use water-saving shower heads, and keep its temperature at no more than 50 degrees Celsius.

What about solar panels?

Solar panels are expensive upfront; the actual cost is determined by the size of your house and roof, as well as subsidies you can get from the government. However, it is likely to save you money in the long term.

Just how much will depend on several factors, including how large / small your house is and what your energy needs and consumption are.

You can see whether this option would be economically beneficial to you by using a calculator on this platform for homeowners in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Cost of living: The most – and least – expensive cantons in Switzerland

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