Swiss electricity boss: energy policy not to blame for shortages

Swiss sockets: currently waiting nervously for the winter ahead. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The head of the Swiss Federal Electricity Commission (Elcom) reckons a winter energy crisis is virtually unavoidable. However, he said the cause of the problem – war in Ukraine – was also difficult to predict.

This content was published on August 27, 2022

Speaking to SRF public radio on Saturday, Werner Luginbühl said the “exorbitant rise in electricity prices” was already putting certain Swiss businesses into existential difficulty.

The Elcom boss added that while “we are doing everything to ensure there will be no electricity shortages this winter”, the risk has not diminished in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, Elcom laid out plans to make hydropower operators hold back more reserves – which would usually be sold on the open market – to help compensate for anticipated shortages in winter.

And on Wednesday, the Swiss government said the country would voluntarily try to reduce its gas usage by 15% this winter, in line with European Union targets. A four-stage plan to deal with a shortage, which could include restrictions on private energy usage, is also being prepared by the Economics Ministry.

Unclear situation

Luginbühl told SRF that it was still too early to say whether the measures will be enough: in the end, unknown factors are in play, including the availability of gas imports, the situation regarding nuclear reactors in neighbouring France, and the severity of the winter.

As for claims that the situation was exacerbated by Swiss energy policy in recent years – notably the goal of phasing out nuclear power – Luginbühl said this wasn’t the case.

“The situation is clearly linked to the war in Ukraine,” he said. All of Europe is in the same situation: “no country is spared”.

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