Swiss dams brimmed in preparation for energy shortages, ElCom confirms

Swiss dams brimmed in preparation for energy shortages, ElCom confirms

As Switzerland prepares for possible energy shortages this winter by cutting down on power usage and building emergency power plants, the Federal Electricity Commission (ElCom) has announced that Swiss dams have been brimmed for the looming crisis. If energy supplies are cut or reduced, the alpine nation can now call upon 400-gigawatt hours of emergency hydroelectric power.

Swiss hydroelectric plants to provide emergency reserve during winter

In a statement on Tuesday, ElCom confirmed that the hydroelectric reserves planned alongside the government’s energy-saving plan have now come online. It explained that it had arranged for 400-gigawatt hours of energy to be available at a moment's notice - enough to power 750.000 homes for nearly 17 days. 

Speaking to 20 minuten, a spokesperson said that the extra power will be used in the event of “exceptional and unpredictable critical shortage situations”, such as “restricted import possibilities" or a slowdown in domestic power production. According to the government, the hydroelectric reserves will allow Switzerland to avoid blackouts for several weeks during the winter, should supplies of natural gas be restricted or run out.

Policy to add 296 million francs to Swiss energy bills

Energy providers in Switzerland will be required to keep the extra energy stored between December 1 and May 15, 2023. ElCom explained that the date in May was chosen because it is, on average, when hydroelectric dams stop losing water and start to fill up with snow melt. 

According to 20 minuten, the plan will cost 296 million francs a year to keep running based on current electricity prices, with the costs set to be charged to residents’ energy bills. In justifying the figure, ElCom said that it had chosen the 400-gigawatt target as any less would not satisfy Switzerland's power needs over the winter, while any more would have increased the cost to consumers “disproportionately.”

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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