Energy: Strengthening security of supply

The war in Ukraine has triggered a global energy crisis. This also affects Switzerland. In order to avoid shortages as far as possible and to strengthen the security of supply, the federal government, the cantons and the Federal Electricity Commission (ElCom), together with the electricity and gas industries, have been working closely together for some time. They have taken various measures to create reserves, reduce dependence on oil and gas, and strengthen domestic renewable energies. The work continues intensively.

Current situation

Switzerland's supply of energy is currently secure. However, because of the war in Ukraine and the associated disruptions to gas supplies in Europe, as well as other uncertainties, there may be energy supply issues this winter. The Federal Council is therefore working with other actors to continuously strengthen Switzerland's security of supply. Various measures have already been taken to achieve this.

Measures to strengthen security of supply

Hydropower reserve

On 16 February 2022, the Federal Council decided to establish a hydropower reserve as early as the coming winter. The operators of reservoirs will be paid to store energy, which can be called up when needed. By issuing an ordinance, which comes into force on 1 October 2022, the Federal Council has brought forward the related measure in the Federal Act on a Secure Electricity Supply from Renewable Energy Sources. Elcom has decided on relevant thresholds and Swissgrid has run the tender for the reserve, in which contracts for the supply of 400GWh have been awarded. This reserve will be used to cover critical shortages towards the end of winter that the market cannot meet.

Reserve power plants

On 16 February 2022, the Federal Council also decided to prepare a legal provision that is required to support reserve power plants as additional insurance against extraordinary shortages. On 17 August 2022, it decided to issue an ordinance bringing forward the use of such power plants (operating on gas, oil or hydrogen) so that they are also already on line towards the end of the coming winter. On 2 September 2022, the federal government signed a contract with the company GE Gas Power allowing it to procure eight mobile gas turbines with a total capacity of around 250 MW, to be installed on GE's premises in Birr (AG).

Fact sheet: Birr reserve power plant (PDF, 08.11.2022; in German)

Emergency generators and voltage boosting

In addition, the Federal Council wants to use emergency generators, as these provide a valuable reserve. Their operators should therefore also be able to participate in the tendering procedures. The basis for this is the Winter Reserve Ordinance, which brings together all three reserves already mentioned. The Federal Council opened the consul-tation procedure on 19 October 2022.

Statement by Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga (Instagram, 19.10.2022; in German with French and Italian subtitles)

On 30 September 2022, the Federal Council further decided that certain hydropower plants may temporarily use more water for electricity production until the end of April by reducing the amount of residual water they discharge. In order to deal with shortages on the transmission grid, the Federal Council has also decided to temporarily increase the voltage from 220 kV to 380 kV on the two major power lines Bickingen-Chippis (Gemmi line) and Bassecourt-Mühleberg. Increasing transmission capacity to the Valais, where large storage power plants such as Nant de Drance are situated, boosts security of supply.

Media release on security of supply in winter 2022/23 (in German)

Media release on reserve power plants and hydropower reserves dated 16 February 2022 (in German)

Media release dated 17 August 2022 on contractual negotiations on reserve power plants and emergency generators (in German)

Media release dated 2 September 2022 on a contract for a mobile reserve power plant (in German)

Media release dated 30 September 2022 on increased capacities in the Swiss electricity transmission grid (in German)

Media release dated 30 September 2022 on a temporary increase in electricity production at hydropower plants (in German)

Additional gas

As Switzerland is completely dependent on imports for its gas, the Federal Council decided on 4 March 2022 to allow the gas industry companies to make joint purchases of gas so that the industry can quickly secure gas and storage capacities without having to fear consequences under competition law.

Media release dated 4 March 2022 on measures to secure gas supplies in winter 2022/23 (in German)

On 18 May 2022, the Federal Council also introduced a requirement for the industry to secure storage capacities in neighbouring countries along with options for additional gas supplies in addition to ordinary procurement. The Federal Council has enacted an emergency ordinance to this end. On 29 June 2022, the Federal Council took note of the industry's plan, as well as of the status of work on creating a winter gas reserve. The five regional companies Erdgas Ostschweiz AG (EGO), Gasverbund Mittelland AG (GVM), Gaznat SA, Erdgas Zentralschweiz AG (EGZ) and Aziende Industriali di Lugano SA (AIL) are each implementing these measures separately. The procurements have in the meantime been made.

Media release dated 18 May 2022 on taking note of the plan (in German)

Media release dated 29 June 2022 on progress with implementing the plan (in German)

Solidarity agreements with neighbouring countries

Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga and Economics Minister Guy Parmelin agreed with German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck at the WEF in Davos on 22 May 2022 to make a prompt start to negotiations on a solidarity agreement between Germany and Switzerland. The first round of talks has taken place. Discussions are also under way with France and Italy.

Dossier WEF

Voluntary savings target

On 24 August 2022, the Federal Council adopted a voluntary savings target of 15% for gas for the winter half of the year (beginning of October 2022 to end of March 2023). Switzerland is completely dependent on imports from abroad for its gas. A European shortage would therefore have a direct impact on Switzerland and make it more difficult for Switzerland to obtain the gas supplies that it has purchased abroad. Switzerland, like other countries, will therefore help to prevent a shortage by taking voluntary measures. The EU states have set themselves the goal of collectively consuming 15% less gas between August 2022 and March 2023.

Media release dated 24 August 2022 on the voluntary target for reducing gas consumption (in German)

Saving energy: second phase of campaign

The federal government developed an energy-saving campaign with businesses, which it launched in August under the slogan: «Energy is in short supply. Let's not waste it!» The campaign provides the public and businesses with simple ideas on how they can use electricity and gas more efficiently and economically. The second phase of the energy-saving campaign was launched in mid-October. Around 180 businesses, associations and authorities have come together to form the Energy Saving Alliance.

The federal government's energy campaign will now receive support from the Energy Saving Alliance as it enters its second phase. The alliance's broad range of partners will support the federal government's campaign as well as implementing additional individualised measures, forming a community that is striving to use energy carefully. The measures they implement will make a significant contribution to strengthening security of supply in the coming winter. The 180 alliance partners represent a total of around 2.4 million workers.

www.nicht-verschwenden.ch (in German) / www.alliance2022-23.ch

Media release dated 20 October 2022 on the Energy Saving Alliance (in German)

Safely through the winter with the Energy Saving Alliance (Energy magazine of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, 20.10.2022)

Preparations for a possible gas or electricity shortage

The Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) is responsible for the preparatory measures that will ensure the country has the supplies it needs in the event of an imminent severe shortage. It supervises compulsory stockpiling and coordinates cooperation with the federal authorities, the Armed Forces and the civil protection service.

The work to address severe shortages is based on the National Economic Supply Act.

Electricity industry rescue package

The war in Ukraine has led to serious price fluctuations on the European markets. Energy companies therefore need more financial resources to fund security deposits paid to cover future purchases. Although the Swiss electricity companies are well positioned, in the worst case scenario there could be a chain reaction and an uncontrolled failure of a major company. To prevent this, the Federal Council has prepared a rescue package for system-critical electricity companies and submitted a related federal act to Parliament in May. The Council of States approved the measures in June, but the National Council decided against an immediate debate at that time.

Media release dated 18 May 2022 on the approval of the rescue package (in German)

Based on a request from Axpo, the Federal Council activated the rescue fund on 6 September 2022 under an emergency ordinance and decided to grant Axpo a credit line of CHF 4 billion to consolidate its liquidity. On 30 September 2022, Parliament passed the law.

Media release of 6 September 2022 on the rescue package for Axpo (in German)

Ordinance on Subsidiary Financial Aid to Rescue Systemically Critical Companies in the Electricity Industry (in German)

Power supply: Federal Council activates rescue fund – Various media sources, 6 September 2022 (in German)

Questions and answers

Here you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the electricity industry financial backstop.

Medium and longer-term measures

Even before the war in Ukraine, the Federal Council had initiated important measures to strengthen security of supply:

  • Federal Act on a Secure Electricity Supply from Renewable Energy Sources
    On 18 June 2021, the Federal Council adopted the Federal Act on a Secure Electricity Supply from Renewable Energy Sources. It aims to ensure that more renewable energy is produced domestically, that a hydropower reserve is available for emergency situations and that there is more funding for storage power plants (a «winter electricity surcharge») so that they can expand and ensure sufficient capacity in winter. The Council of States debated the bill in the autumn session of this year, and it is now the turn of the National Council.
  • Accelerated authorisation procedures
    The Federal Council also wants to speed up the procedures. Currently, it can often take up to 20 years for a wind or hydropower project to come to fruition. There are various authorisation procedures, and in each procedure there is a right of appeal as far as the Federal Supreme Court. This delays the implementation of projects. The Federal Council is proposing to consolidate the procedures so that there is only one appeal procedure in order to speed up the process for large wind and hydropower plants. This would also benefit the 15 projects that representatives of the power industry and environmental organisations agreed on at the Hydropower Round Table.

Medium and longer-term measures – Dossier on security of electricity supply (in German)

Responsibilities

At a political level, the DETEC – EAER Steering Committee lays down the guidelines. This committee comprises the presidents of the Conference of Cantonal Governments, the Conference of Cantonal Energy Directors, the Swiss Union of Cities, the Association of Swiss Communes, the Association of Swiss Electricity Companies, the Swiss Gas Industry Association, the presidents of Axpo, Alpiq, BKW, Repower, Swissgrid and the petroleum association Carbura, the director of the SFOE, the delegate from the FONES and the president of the Federal Electricity Commission (ElCom). The tasks of the Steering Committee are assessing the situation at a political and strategic level, taking measures to strengthen security of supply, and coordinating policy between the Confederation and the cantons.

If shortages arise, the Federal Council's decisions in the electricity sector are implemented in operational terms by OSTRAL, the Organisation for Electricity Supply in Extraordinary Situations. OSTRAL takes action on the instructions of the FONES when a power shortage occurs. In the gas sector, the Federal Council has instructed the Swiss Gas Industry Association to form an operational crisis organisation for the technical implementation of the Federal Council's decisions and to draw up a plan for monitoring the situation in the gas sector.

Media

Media releases in English

Contact

Energy situation and campaign to save energy

Find out about the current energy situation in Switzerland and find recommendations on saving electricity for members of the public and businesses. An energy shortage affects us all!

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