Consumption quotas and colder houses: Swiss government reveals gas shortage plan
The Swiss Federal Council has released its plan for reducing the amount of gas consumed in the alpine nation. Through a combination of quotas, bans and public awareness, the government hopes to reduce gas consumption in Switzerland by 15 percent.
Switzerland heavily reliant on gas imports this winter
At a meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Council agreed that, in order to prevent gas shortages and blackouts this winter, Switzerland would have to reduce its gas consumption by 15 percent - in line with an EU target set earlier in August. The council said that while it was doing all it can to prevent a shortage, the country remains reliant on imports of energy from abroad and is inherently vulnerable to gas shortages.
According to 20 minuten, natural gas makes up 13,5 percent of the country’s total energy consumption. The council noted that three-quarters of gas consumption in Switzerland occurs in winter - as families and individuals choose to heat their homes more during the cold weather - which is why the government is going to put the plan into place in the coming months.
Call to reduce gas consumption to be followed by bans and quotas
The council explained that as soon as shortages emerge, the government will instruct the public to conserve gas, achieved by turning down the thermostat at home and leaving disused buildings unheated. As more than 40 percent of gas is used for home utilities, the government said that the general public will play a vital role in reducing consumption, although the council assured that “essential goods and services” will not be affected.
If the issues persist, the council said it would begin banning the use of gas for certain utilities. “The use of gas in the areas of sports, leisure, wellness and, for example, patio heaters can be prohibited,” the council explained.
The government argued that such bans “serve to prevent, as far as possible, quotas that would be associated with significant economic damage.” However, if previous measures are not sufficient, gas quotas for international companies, domestic businesses and other industries would be imposed.
Emergency gas plan criticised by Swiss political parties
In response, parties from across the political spectrum have criticised the plan, with the Swiss People’s Party writing in a statement that the current crisis is “not [because of] the war in Ukraine but rather the failure of politics.” They called on Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga “to immediately convene an extraordinary summit bringing together political parties, energy suppliers and economic associations and to present a clear plan of measures on how the energy supply can be guaranteed in our country."
The plan also caused disquiet among the Green Party of Switzerland, with National Councillor Delphine Klopfenstein Broggini noting that “the war in Ukraine highlights Switzerland's problematic dependence on oil and gas.” The Greens announced that they would be putting forward their own energy-saving plan next week.
In concluding the statement, the council said that they had instructed government departments to draw up draft laws to help implement the plan, which is set to be completed by August 31. They will then allow political parties, businesses and private individuals to voice their concerns about the scheme in a public consultation.