The information on this page relates to the security of supply in winter 2022/23 and is no longer being updated. For current information regarding the security of energy supply, please refer to the page «Secure electricity supply» (available in German, French and Italian).
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.
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. 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
- Reserve power plants
- Emergency generators and voltage boosting
- Additional gas
- Solidarity agreements with neighbouring countries
- Voluntary savings target
- Campaign to save energy
- Preparations for a possible gas or electricity shortage
- Electricity industry rescue package
- Medium and longer-term measures
- Further Information
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 ex-traordinary shortages. In August 2022, the Federal Council decided that the timeframe for such plants should be brought forward so that they would be available by the end of winter 22/23 (operating on gas, oil or hydrogen) and issued an ordinance to that effect. The Federal Council approved that ordinance on 21 December 2022. It regulates the operation of reserve power plants and emergency power groups until 31 May.
At the beginning of September 2022, the first contract was signed with GE Gas Power for a temporary reserve power plant in Birr (AG). In December 2022, the Confederation signed a contract for the existing Cornaux 1 thermal power plant in Cornaux (NE) and in February 2023 for the Thermatel gas-fired combined cycle power plant operated by Compagnie industrielle de Monthey SA in Monthey (VS). These three reserve power plants have a total capacity of 326 MW.
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.
On 30 September 2022, the Federal Council further decided that certain hydropower plants would be temporarily permitted to use more water for electricity production. It has been possible to prematurely lift the temporary reduction in 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 Valais, where large storage power plants such as Nant de Drance are situated, boosts security of supply.
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.
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.
Solidarity agreements with neighbouring countries
At a meeting at the WEF 2023 with Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, Federal Councillor Albert Rösti addressed Switzerland's cooperation with Germany in the energy sector. The two ministers agreed that a trilateral solidarity agreement with Italy should be sought going forward. In parallel, the technical discussions on gas crisis management between the respective Swiss and German authorities will continue.
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.
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 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 winter 2022/23. The 180 alliance partners represent a total of around 2.4 million workers.
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.
EAER Infographic in German: When electricity becomes scarce
EAER Infographic in German: When gas becomes scarce
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.
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.
Furthermore, on 16 December 2022 the Federal Council submitted a bill for consultation aimed at improving transparency and oversight in the wholesale energy market.
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 (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. In the spring session of 2023, the National Council followed the Council of States on the main points – but made certain amendments. The Council of States is expected to take up the matter again in the summer session.
- 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.
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.
On 30 September 2022, the Federal Council approved the crisis team that will be deployed in the event of a shortage of gas or electricity in Switzerland.
Media releases in English
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!
- 0800 005 005