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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.

EXPLAINED: Why you should hold off on buying electric heaters in Switzerland
Electric heaters are known as 'energy guzzlers'. (Photo by Achudh Krishna on Unsplash)

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.

READ ALSO: ‘It could hit us hard’: Switzerland prepares for impending gas shortage

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.”

READ ALSO: How is Switzerland is preparing for power outages this winter?

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.

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

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.

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Switzerland bans imports of Russian gold

Switzerland, a key refiner and manufacturer of gold bars, is banning imports of the precious metal from Russia, the government said Wednesday.

Switzerland bans imports of Russian gold

The central government aligned itself with EU sanctions which, on July 21, added a ban on gold imports of Russian origin to the list of restrictions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The ban came into effect at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, Switzerland’s Federal Council said in a statement.

Under the new sanctions, Switzerland forbids “buying, importing or transporting gold and gold products from Russia”, the statement said, adding that “services in connection with these goods are also prohibited”.

Traditionally neutral, Switzerland broke with its usual stance in the days after the start of the war in Ukraine by aligning itself with European Union economic sanctions.

In May, three tons of gold from Russia were imported from Britain, but it was not clear which company was responsible for bringing it to Switzerland, Bloomberg News reported.

The Swiss Association of Manufacturers and Traders in Precious Metals (ASFCMP), which represents the country’s largest refineries, contacted its members and said none of them were responsible for the imports.

The association insisted that “doubtful gold” had “no place in Switzerland” and urged its members to act “with the utmost caution”.

Swiss customs said at the time they were examining the imports in light of the sanctions, but insisted that gold imports from Russia were not banned.

While gold exports were already subject to sanctions, imports were not banned under the sanctions order, customs officials said.

The fourth package of sanctions imposed by the EU included luxury goods, banning the sale, supply, transfer or export of luxury goods to Russia, including gold, silver, pearls and diamonds.

But on July 21, the EU also explicitly added a ban on importing gold from Russia, including in the form of powder, debris or gold coins.

Switzerland has several refineries to recycle gold and melt ingots.

The sector employs 1,500 people, according to ASFCMP.