Is Switzerland saving energy? Authorities don't know, according to report
As the Federal Council continues to promote its measures designed to reduce power consumption in Switzerland, a new report by SonntagsBlick has found that officials in Bern may not know whether the plan was effective until after the crisis is over. They found that energy consumption data is often given to the government several months after readings are made, making it impossible to say whether the austerity campaign is working.
Are Swiss energy austerity measures working? We don't know, says SonntagsBlick
In a speech given on August 31, the Federal Council announced its new energy austerity plan, in an attempt to reduce power consumption in Switzerland by 15 percent during the winter. While the current measures are voluntary, the government warned that stricter quotas and bans may be imposed to avoid energy shortages and blackouts.
However, a new report by SonntagsBlick has claimed that the government will be unable to conclusively say whether these measures have been effective until long after the crisis is over, as data on energy consumption takes months to make its way into the hands of the Federal Council.
The paper noted that in theory the Swiss government could receive up-to-date information about gas and electricity usage, as consumption readings are taken every day by energy providers. However, these sums are only sent to the national grid on the 10th working day of the next calendar month, taking longer still to be referred to the Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) in Bern. For gas - the main thing the austerity campaign is trying to save - the situation is even worse, as most gas providers only send their data to Bern once a year.
Swiss government unable to provide accurate data on power consumption
The paper found that the SFOE cannot say conclusively how much energy the country used in June 2022. If this time scale continues, the government will be unable to say whether the energy austerity measures were effective until long after the crisis is due to subside - or until the lights go off. When SonntagsBlick asked energy providers directly for up-to-date data, Alpiq and Axpo responded by referring them to the SFOE.
"It would be important for the federal government to receive consumption data for Switzerland once a week" so that measures can be modified in real-time, noted Markus Flatt, from energy consulting firm EVU Partners. “The federal government and the industry have homework [to do]."
Lack of digitisation to blame for lack of data on Swiss electricity usage
Speaking to SonntagsBlick, SFOE spokesperson Marianne Zünd explained that "the statistical collection of the data is complex and takes time, both for the data suppliers and for the examination and compilation by the statisticians at the federal government." Unlike in Germany, where users can check the nation’s energy consumption in real-time, Zünd said that many local energy providers cannot automatically transmit their data due to a lack of digitisation.
To solve the problem, Zünd announced that the government will be able to monitor energy consumption in real time by the end of 2022. She noted that the system is currently being checked to make sure the state is legally allowed to collect the data.
For those wondering whether the current austerity measures are having an effect, energy firm CKW from Lucerne told SonntagsBlick that it had received “some interesting information” since the start of the campaign. However, perhaps typically, it could not reveal the data or make a “serious statement” about how much is being saved.