‘Restrictions and bans’: What to know about Switzerland’s new energy crisis plan
While the issue of power outages is not new and has been debated by the authorities before, the Federal Council has announced the steps it would take if energy becomes scarce in Switzerland.
Officials have been hinting that the much-feared shortage of gas, which is used to generate electricity, is not a realistic scenario for Switzerland.
“For this winter, the good news is that the risk of a gas shortage remains relatively low,” Economy Minister Guy Parmelin said earlier in November.
While Switzerland relies heavily on foreign sources, Parmelin pointed out that "in the countries around us, stocks are between 95 and 100 percent full. The Swiss gas industry has also done its job by reserving its 15 percent [of gas] abroad."
However, the government is preparing for the “worst-case” scenario, such as a serious energy shortage that would impact private households and essential industries alike. On Wednesday, it announced its plan, which the cantons have to respond to by December 12th.
"If a shortage should nevertheless occur, the Federal Council will regulate the electricity supply by means of time-limited measures in order to preserve the stability of the network and to secure the supply. Each level of measures aims to avoid more serious consequences, which would require more drastic measures," authorities said.
What steps will the government take?
“In the event of a serious electricity shortage, the measures would be adapted to the severity of the shortage and the concrete situation, before the ordinances come into force,” the Federal Council noted.
First: urgent calls to consumers
In case of an imminent shortage, authorities “would first issue urgent calls to reduce consumption to all electricity consumers,” the government said, adding that "at the same time, the Federal Council could decree initial restrictions and bans on use".
The Federal Council could decree initial restrictions and bans on use.
“These would be tightened in stages, from the drop in the level of comfort (bans on lighting objects, for example) to more restrictive measures (closure of establishments)," authorities said.
The government’s goal is to implement measures that target the concrete cases, depending on the supply situation, weather conditions, and the consequences for the economy and the population.
Essential goods and services, however, would be preserved “as much as possible.”
Second : Electricity quota for large consumers
A more restrictive measure — quotas — would be imposed on consumers with an annual consumption of at least 100 megawatt hours (MWh). The quota would affect more than 34,000 large entities, such as companies, who are responsible for almost half of the current consumption in Switzerland.
“Targeting this group of consumers offers significant savings potential,” the Federal Council said.
The quota would be set for a day or a month, depending on the overall situation.
“For winter 2023/2024, a solution will be developed for companies with sites on different distribution networks, so that they can be subject to the same quota throughout Switzerland.”
Third : Load shedding
This last-resort solution is the regulated measure to prevent the widespread network from collapsing and causing a blackout.
However, consumer groups providing vital services, such as power and water supply facilities, emergency response and basic medical care, could be exempted from load shedding to the extent that technical conditions allow it, which would rarely be the case, the Federal Council said.
Therefore, “power cuts would have far-reaching consequences for the economy and the population, and would be accompanied by restrictions with far-reaching consequences. This is why every effort is made to avoid them.”
You, as an individual or a household, can play a part in cutting energy consumption as well. This is how: