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How is Switzerland is preparing for power outages this winter?

There are growing concerns that Switzerland will face power outages this winter due to the energy crisis partly caused by Russia's war in Ukraine and problems with supply chains. This is how Swiss authorities plan to handle the situation.

How is Switzerland is preparing for power outages this winter?
Will this become the energy source this winter? Photo: Cottonbro / Pexels

If the predictions from the electricity industry are correct, people in Switzerland might have to endure a colder winter than usual this year, but not due to the weather.

It’s because electricity shortages “are not excluded” this winter, according to the Federal Electricity Commission (Elcom), and they could mean less heating in homes, in addition to other inconveniences like blackouts.

While the natural instinct might be to blame Russia for this situation, the war in Ukraine is only partly responsible for the impending crisis.

The other reason lies much closer to home: 28 of 56 nuclear power plants in France — which exports electricity to Switzerland —  had to be shut down early this year for an undefined period of time due mostly to corrosion damage.

The ageing French nuclear power reactors will likely face more closures throughout the year in order for delayed safety checks to be carried out.

This means Switzerland will have to turn to Germany, Italy and Austria for its energy, and with fewer available supply channels, prices will rise.

READ MORE: Switzerland faces 20 percent increase in electricity costs

Another consequence of having fewer import sources is the possibility — and even probability, industry experts say — that electricity will become scarce during the coldest months of 2022 and 2023.

“Over the past 50 years, a power shortage has never been more realistic than now”, said Michael Frank, director of the Association of Swiss Electrical Companies.

What are authorities doing to prevent power outages this winter?

If shortages were to become serious, the Organisation for Electricity Supply in Extraordinary Situations (Ostral) would activate a four-step procedure, according to Ostral’s director, Lukas Küng.

As a first step, the Federal Council will call on the population (individuals and businesses alike) to voluntarily reduce their electricity consumption.

If this is not enough, consumption restrictions will be imposed. Among them would be the ban on operating ski lifts , as well as limits on other infrastructures that use up a lot of electricity — for instance reduction in public lighting and in public transport system.

In the worst-case scenario, “network operators will cyclically cut off power in some areas for a certain period”, Küng said.

To avoid the crisis, Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga is planning to use gas-powered stations as a reserve for the winter.

This measure, however, might not be sufficient.

“Three scenarios could jeopardise the electricity supply next winter”, according to Watson news portal.

“The first would be a hot, dry summer that would lower the levels of rivers and (dam) lakes. The second would be Putin’s decision to permanently close the gas tap to Europe. The third would be the [continued]  partial unavailability of French nuclear power plants”.

These articles published in The Local provide more information on this subject:

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Rangers fear Swiss forests could be targeted for firewood amid energy crisis

With Switzerland and other European nations threatened by a shortage of gas and electricity this winter there are concerns people will head to the forests to stock up on free firewood.

Rangers fear Swiss forests could be targeted for firewood amid energy crisis

The chairman of Switzerland’s Federal Electricity Commission, Werner Luginbühl, even recommended on Sunday that people should build up reserves in the event of a disaster scenario.

But as a result forest rangers fear many will take to the forests to illegally build up their supplies.

Some countries like Poland have already seen people take to the forests to chop down trees for firewood, but so far Switzerland has been spared this kind of phenomenon.

But perhaps not for long.

Thomas Studer, director of a forestry operation in the canton of Solothurn told 20 Minutes: “Wood supplies are melting like snow in the sun.”

He fears there will be a rise in thefts in the coming weeks in the Swiss forests.

He said many walkers were already picking up branches that have fallen to the ground. He urged people to be responsible but warned that thieves would be punished because Swiss forests were not “self-service”.

“It’s theft and therefore punishable,” he said.