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What are Swiss cities doing to save energy?

On August 31st, the Federal Council announced its recommendations for cutting energy consumption. Some Swiss cities have already responded to the appeal.

What are Swiss cities doing to save energy?
Some Swiss cities will be turning off lights at night. Image by donterase from Pixabay

The government’s new campaign, aimed at preventing energy shortages during the cold season, is aptly called “Energy is limited. Let’s not waste it”.

The plan outlines several simple measures that can, if everyone follows them, stave off shortages and prevent power outages and blackouts.

 “The objective is to encourage the widest possible participation, so that Switzerland does not find itself in a shortage situation”, the Federal Council pointed out.

All the steps that the government recommends, including lowering the heating and switching off lights in empty rooms, can be seen here in German, French, and Italian.

READ MORE: What the Swiss government is asking you to do to save energy

While all individuals and businesses are urged to comply with the with easy-to-implement recommendations, municipalities big and small are also coming onboard for the campaign, so it can bear fruit — that is, reach the objective of cutting Switzerland’s gas consumption by 15 percent from October until the end of March, when the weather tends to be coldest.

READ MORE: Switzerland aims to cut gas consumption by 15 percent

The Swiss Association of Cities voiced its support for the government’s recommendations, and a few municipalities have already taken voluntary measures. Although neither Zurich nor Geneva have revealed what steps they will take to follow the federal recommendations, they are expected to do so soon.

These three cities have already committed to follow the government’s call:


The city will lower the room temperature by two degrees in administration buildings, which will result in energy savings of 12 percent – “that’s what we’ll certainly implement”,  said Reto Nause, director for Bern’s Safety, Environment and Energy.

In addition, the water temperature in administration buildings and municipal swimming pools will be lowered, “and the lighting in historic buildings will be dispensed with”.


The temperature in all public administration offices will be reduced to 19 degrees.

“This room temperature also applies to public schools from the first secondary level, with the exception of kindergartens and primary schools”, city officials said.


Similar measures will be introduced in Zug as well.

“When the heating season begins, the temperature in schools and administration buildings is reduced by two degrees, regardless of whether a shortage occurs,” according to Urs Raschle, head of the Social Affairs, Environment and Safety Department.

Also,”we will largely do without Christmas lights on the municipal properties”.

More Swiss cities are expected to join the campaign soon, but as each municipality determines its own measures, some could be more far-reaching than others.

That’s because “the cities are very different in terms of their size and how they are supplied with energy”, said Anders Stokolm, president of the Swiss Association of Cities.

READ MORE: Which Swiss cantons will see the biggest hikes in electricity bills?

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How European countries are spending billions on easing energy crisis

European governments are announcing emergency measures on a near-weekly basis to protect households and businesses from the energy crisis stemming from Russia's war in Ukraine.

How European countries are spending billions on easing energy crisis

Hundreds of billions of euros and counting have been shelled out since Russia invaded its pro-EU neighbour in late February.

Governments have gone all out: from capping gas and electricity prices to rescuing struggling energy companies and providing direct aid to households to fill up their cars.

The public spending has continued, even though European Union countries had accumulated mountains of new debt to save their economies during the Covid pandemic in 2020.

But some leaders have taken pride at their use of the public purse to battle this new crisis, which has sent inflation soaring, raised the cost of living and sparked fears of recession.

After announcing €14billion in new measures last week, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi boasted the latest spending put Italy, “among the countries that have spent the most in Europe”.

The Bruegel institute, a Brussels-based think tank that is tracking energy crisis spending by EU governments, ranks Italy as the second-biggest spender in Europe, after Germany.

READ ALSO How EU countries aim to cut energy bills and avoid blackouts this winter

Rome has allocated €59.2billion since September 2021 to shield households and businesses from the rising energy prices, accounting for 3.3 percent of its gross domestic product.

Germany tops the list with €100.2billion, or 2.8 percent of its GDP, as the country was hit hard by its reliance on Russian gas supplies, which have dwindled in suspected retaliation over Western sanctions against Moscow for the war.

On Wednesday, Germany announced the nationalisation of troubled gas giant Uniper.

France, which shielded consumers from gas and electricity price rises early, ranks third with €53.6billion euros allocated so far, representing 2.2 percent of its GDP.

Spending to continue rising
EU countries have now put up €314billion so far since September 2021, according to Bruegel.

“This number is set to increase as energy prices remain elevated,” Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at Bruegel, told AFP.

The energy bills of a typical European family could reach €500 per month early next year, compared to €160 in 2021, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

The measures to help consumers have ranged from a special tax on excess profits in Italy, to the energy price freeze in France, and subsidies public transport in Germany.

But the spending follows a pandemic response that increased public debt, which in the first quarter accounted for 189 percent of Greece’s GDP, 153 percent in Italy, 127 percent in Portugal, 118 percent in Spain and 114 percent in France.

“Initially designed as a temporary response to what was supposed to be a temporary problem, these measures have ballooned and become structural,” Tagliapietra said.

“This is clearly not sustainable from a public finance perspective. It is important that governments make an effort to focus this action on the most vulnerable households and businesses as much as possible.”

Budget reform
The higher spending comes as borrowing costs are rising. The European Central Bank hiked its rate for the first time in more than a decade in July to combat runaway inflation, which has been fuelled by soaring energy prices.

The yield on 10-year French sovereign bonds reached an eight-year high of 2.5 percent on Tuesday, while Germany now pays 1.8 percent interest after boasting a negative rate at the start of the year.

The rate charged to Italy has quadrupled from one percent earlier this year to four percent now, reviving the spectre of the debt crisis that threatened the eurozone a decade ago.

“It is critical to avoid debt crises that could have large destabilising effects and put the EU itself at risk,” the International Monetary Fund warned in a recent blog calling for reforms to budget rules.

The EU has suspended until 2023 rules that limit the public deficit of countries to three percent of GDP and debt to 60 percent.

The European Commission plans to present next month proposals to reform the 27-nation bloc’s budget rules, which have been shattered by the crises.