“An unprecedented level of uncertainty” in the energy sector

Director of the Federal Electricity Commission (ElCom) Urs Meister warns of an average increase in household electricity costs of 20% in 2023. KEYSTONE / ANTHONY ANEX sda-ats

This content was published on July 20, 2022 – 13:00

(Keystone ATS)

“In Europe there is unprecedented uncertainty” in the energy supply, said Wednesday Benoît Revaz, director of the Federal Office of Energy (SFOE). This winter there could be restrictions on both electricity and gas.

“We are currently experiencing the first global energy crisis with Europe as the epicenter,” said Benoît Revaz during a press conference in Bern. Prices are heavily influenced by the war in Ukraine and Switzerland is not spared.

The manager detailed the various sites the federal government is working to ensure supplies next winter. In addition to the rescue package for energy companies, which still has to be approved by Parliament, Benoît Revaz mentioned a campaign to raise public awareness of energy savings. A platform will be available at the end of August.

Asked about the possible increase in electricity prices for households, Urs Meister, Director of the Federal Electricity Commission (ElCom), explains that it is difficult to give figures for this year. “An average increase of 20% is still expected for 2023,” he said.

Don’t fall into alarmism

If the experts present on Wednesday recognized that the “risk of an electricity shortage is real and great”, Michael Frank, Managing Director of the Association of Swiss Electricity Companies (AES), wanted to put things into perspective. “It would be wrong to go into alarmism now,” he said. However, the energy industry is taking the situation seriously.

In view of the impending bottlenecks, four so-called quota and rationing measures are planned. The first consists of a call from the federal government to companies and the population to voluntarily reduce their consumption. In a second step, restrictions or bans on the use of non-essential devices and systems could be imposed.

If the shortage persists, an electricity quota for major customers would be introduced. Finally, the fourth, more drastic measure envisages load shedding throughout the country. The operators of the distribution grid would interrupt the power supply to consumers in their region for a few hours and change the affected sectors.

Similar situation for gas

Bastian Schwark, Head of Energy at the Federal Office for National Economic Supply, presented the planned system for gas shortages.

Here, too, the first step is a call for a voluntary reduction in consumption. Then we would proceed with the conversion of biofuel plants from gas to oil in companies equipped with this type of plant. The third phase provides for restrictions, for example the obligation to limit the heating temperature in public buildings.

Finally, the fourth stage consists of quotas. These would initially apply to all installations that are not considered protected. Protected customers include households, household-supplying district heating systems and essential social services. Hospitals, energy and water supply as well as emergency organizations are also among the essential services.

standard dams

The filling rate of the hydroelectric power plants in Switzerland is currently within the normal range and the nuclear power plants – with the exception of Beznau (AG) for reasons of the Aar temperature – are running at full speed.

Urs Meister pointed this out and specified that the Aargau power plant had to reduce its output due to the high Aare temperatures at the end of last week. According to the director of EIcom, the installation could even be stopped completely if the 25 degrees are reached for three consecutive days

However, such a shutdown would result in the import of gas-fired electricity from abroad, he added. However, prices are increasing with price increases between 50% and 75% compared to early June. The situation on the international market is very uncertain, emphasized Mr. Meister.

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