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Swiss prepare for energy shortage ‘extreme scenarios’

Electricity pylons and power supply lines in central Switzerland (archive picture) Keystone / Alessandro Della Bella

The Swiss government and cantons are aiming to be prepared for “extreme scenarios” in the face of possible energy shortages this winter, a top cantonal security official says.

For example, a power grid shutdown or blackout would have far-reaching consequences, Fredy Fässler, the president of the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors, said in an interview published in the tabloid Blick on Saturday.

It would no longer be possible to withdraw money from ATMs, heating would stop working, and the streets would be plunged into darkness. In extreme cases, looting and protests could not be ruled out, he said.

The country must prepare for such scenarios, Fässler continued, even if they are in his view unlikely to happen.

Preparedness: key

In 2014 a national exercise designed to test how security organisations and emergency services were able to deal with an electricity shortage uncovered major shortcomings, such as a lack of back-up generators for police, hospitals and other critical infrastructure, Fässler said. These have since been corrected.

The government is very much focused on energy supply and the economy – and until now security aspects have been forgotten, he outlined. This is why cantonal security authorities (cantons are in charge of police and justice matters on their territories) have successfully lobbied to take a more active part in planning efforts at a federal level.

Winter energy concerns

Experts have already warned that Switzerland could face electricity and gas shortages in winter despite sufficient supplies at the moment and considerable reserves.

Swiss Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga earlier this week defended Switzerland’s energy strategy, saying a range of options were being explored to prevent power outages this winter.

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