EXPLAINED: Why you should hold off on buying electric heaters in Switzerland
The soaring temperatures mean that heating might not be the first thing on your mind, but as the natural gas shortage is threatening Swiss households next winter, more people are purchasing electric heaters for their homes.
Countries around Europe are preparing for the possibility of a difficult winter without Russian gas supply.
In Switzerland, many people are stocking up on electric radiators - Digitec Galaxus online retailer has recorded an explosion in sales of these devices — an increase of 370 percent in June compared to last year.
But if they are all used, there will be severe consequences for the domestic power supply, according to the SonntagsZeitung.
Michael Frank, director of the Association of Swiss Electric Companies (VSE), warns consumers that this rush will likely adversely affect the electricity supply.
If emergency electric heaters replace the gas heaters, “electricity consumption will increase massively when the situation is already tense,” he told the Swiss weekly paper.
Electric heaters are regarded as energy guzzlers, and there have been attempts to ban or phase them out, as The Local reported. Frank told SonntagsZeitung that using thousands of electric emergency heaters could "lead to a great instability for Switzerland's energy balance".
The VSE director fears electricity consumption will "increase massively" due to the use of the devices. "Then we would have a big problem not only with gas, but soon also electricity."
Around 300,000 households in Switzerland are heated with gas and authorities are scrambling to find a way to deal with the projected gas shortages.
The Federal Office for State Supply (BWL) stated that the Federal Council would deal with this issue "soon."
What is the situation looking like for winter?
Though the possibility that Swiss households will have to turn down the heat is not ruled out, the government wants to first switch from gas to oil and incentivise businesses to make the swap immediately.
In the event of an actual shortage, consumption restrictions may be ordered, such as restrictions on heating unoccupied buildings. In addition, the switching to biofuel could be imposed by ordinance, the authorities say.
If electricity shortages were to become severe, 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 and limits on other infrastructures that use up a lot of electricity — for instance, reduction in public lighting and the public transport system.
In the worst-case scenario, “network operators will cyclically cut off power in some areas for a certain period,” Küng said.