Experts in gas and electricity take stock of the situation in Switzerland

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Crisis“The risk of power outages is real and significant”

Experts in gas and electricity took stock of the situation in Switzerland on Wednesday in Bern. They presented the measures that could be applied in case of shortages.

“We are experiencing the first global energy crisis with Europe at its epicenter, a Europe particularly affected by the war in Ukraine. And if Europe is affected, so is Switzerland. It is in these serious terms that the director of the Federal Energy Office, Benoît Revaz, launched a press conference in Bern on Wednesday dedicated to the cascading measures that the Confederation and energy experts have been preparing for several months in Switzerland. This is to find solutions in case of shortages.

‘Unprecedented level of uncertainty’

There is “an unprecedented level of uncertainty” in Europe over energy supplies, according to the official. For Benoît Revaz, prices are heavily impacted by the war in Ukraine and Switzerland also sees prices explode. “An average increase of 20% is expected for homes in 2023,” said Urs Meister, director of the Federal Electricity Commission (ElCom).

“The possibility of a power outage is real and significant. We can and must prepare as quickly and as best as possible for this situation. Doing nothing is not an option,” added Michael Frank, director of the Association of Swiss Electric Companies (AES). However, he put it in perspective: it would be wrong to fall into alarmism now, but we must take the situation seriously.

The cascading measures envisaged

The first and most important will be to save energy by appealing to companies and families to reduce their consumption. A major awareness campaign should be launched for this purpose. “We will ask, for example, to lower the temperature of the heaters, but only by one degree”, explains Michael Frank, director of AES. About 6% of the gas is actually saved per degree less, he recalled. The Federal Council had already mentioned this in May. In addition, facilities running on gas will be required to switch to oil, which should save up to 20% gas.

If appeals to savings are not enough, the Federal Council can then decide on restrictions. “Initially, this would particularly affect shop windows, heating appliances or Christmas lights. The next step will be to encourage large consumers to save electricity,” explains Frank. This would involve around 30,000 companies. There may also be mandatory heating temperature restrictions in public buildings or offices.

Finally, in the case of an extremely serious situation, the “final solution” would be for the Federal Council to decide to cut the network. “The current would be cut for a few hours and then restored for a few hours,” explains Michael Franck.

Bern’s plan in case of a power outage.

The director of OFEN recalled that a solidarity agreement is being negotiated with Germany on the supply of gas in the event of an extreme emergency and that discussions in this regard will also begin with Italy. The Confederation is also working with gas operators to secure reserves for the winter. Berna is also working on production, we are working on the hydraulic reserve.

Assured supply for now

“In principle, Switzerland’s supply situation is safe,” according to Bastian Schwark, head of the energy sector at the Federal Office for Economic Supply. In terms of electricity, the level of the accumulation lakes is within the long-term average. Problem: with the heat of the Aare that cools Beznau, Switzerland must deal with a reduced power of this nuclear plant. There are also major supply uncertainties on the French nuclear side.

This is at the level of the gas that weighs more uncertainties, as Switzerland has no reservations. Furthermore, maintenance work on the Russian Nordstream gas pipeline, which ensures the transport of Russian gas to Europe, raises serious concerns. “When Nordstream 1 supplies gas again, prices will go down. But that remains uncertain,” according to Urs Meister. He recalled that several European countries have already launched an appeal for savings.

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