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Swiss companies told to brace for electricity shortages

An electricity agreement between Switzerland and the European Union has been on hold since 2018. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The Swiss government has shared its vision for coping with major power outages in a brochure shared with thousands of companies, the weekly NZZ am Sonntag reported on Sunday. In the absence of an electricity agreement with the European Union, such a scenario is likely if large power plants fail in Switzerland or abroad.

Swiss companies could be ordered to reduce their electricity consumption by a specific percentage in the event of a shortage, the government warns in the brochure sent to 30,000 firms.

The first measure the government would take to counter such a situation is to urge the population to tone down its electricity consumption. The second would be to prohibit the operation of swimming pools, air conditioning systems and escalators. Only in a third step would electricity quotas be imposed on the economy.

The brochure urges companies to look for ways to save electricity. Other than the coronavirus pandemic, the scenario of an electricity shortage is a major threat to supply security in Switzerland. A power failure could cause damages up to CHF4 billion ($4.3 billion) per day, the newspaper notes citing government figures.

“A power shortage is, next to a pandemic, the greatest threat to Switzerland’s supply,”  Economic Affairs Minister Guy Parmelin says in a video posted on the website of the Organization for Electricity Supply in Extraordinary Situations (Ostral).

An electricity shortage situation that extends for weeks or months, he explains, would mean “that factories could produce less, public authorities and service companies such as banks would have to reduce their offerings, and means of transport that depend on electricity, such as trains or trams, could only operate to a limited extent.”

The pandemic has underscored the importance of prepare as well as possible for crises, the minister added. And should there be a shortage of electricity, Switzerland would need all consumers — especially large consumers such as companies — to do their part.

Switzerland risks significant problem guaranteeing electricity in the short and medium term, especially in winter, in the absence of progress on a deal with the EU, according to experts.

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