Swiss government prepares energy crisis unit

© Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

The Federal Council is forming a special unit to respond to possible energy shortages, Economics Minister Guy Parmelin confirmed on Sunday. The government has faced criticism from the cantons about coordination and accusations that it is too slow in responding to a potential crisis.

This content was published on September 19, 2022 minutes

The government is “very close” to finalising the creation of a crisis unit with “a single point of contact for cantons”, Parmelin told Swiss public television, RTS, on SundayExternal link. He said a formal announcement would be made when it is ready.

But the unit would only intervene if Switzerland actually experiences an energy shortage, Parmelin said.

Amid mounting calls for action, Parmelin last month announced numerous measures to help combat possible electricity shortages in Switzerland this winter, including an energy-savings campaign. However, he insists that the threat of shortages should not be over-dramatisedExternal link.

The cantons, a number of business groups and left-leaning political groups have voiced concerns, with some taking aim at the government for a perceived lack of urgency.

The president of the Conference of Cantonal Energy Directors, Roberto Schmidt, has accused the federal government of “falling asleep on the electricity issue”.

Cantons complain of a lack of information and of not being regularly consulted, said RTS. They have called for the setting up of a permanent crisis unit to have a clear strategy to deal with any energy shortages rather than for the issue being dealt with by different federal departments. They also want a clear indication of any power shortages ahead.

In August, the Swiss government launched a campaign encouraging the population not to waste energy amid the expected energy crunch linked to reduced supplies of oil and gas from Russia in the wake of its war in Ukraine. Consumers have been advised to take measures such as lowering the thermostat, covering pots and pans while cooking, and turning off lights and appliances when not in use.

Last month the government also introduced a voluntary gas savings schemeExternal link that it hopes will reduce demand from households and industry by 15%. Measures are also underway to boost water reserves at hydropower plants and to increase gas storage facilities.

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