La Confédération se prépare à une possible pénurie de gaz pour l'hiver prochain. Diverses mesures sont prévues par le secteur (illustration). © KEYSTONE/DPA-Zentralbild/FERNANDO GUTIERREZ-JUAREZ

Bern prepares for gas shortage

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Switzerland is preparing to face a potential shortage of gas or electricity next winter. The Federal Council took note on Wednesday of the progress of the project to create a winter gas reserve.

Russian gas flows to the EU are plummeting and currently account for only 15% of EU gas imports. Switzerland does not have its own storage facilities and is therefore entirely dependent on imports. Up to three-quarters of gas deliveries to Switzerland are via Germany.

If the storage facilities cannot be filled as planned, a shortage situation cannot be ruled out for next winter, warns the Federal Council in a press release. The Swiss gas industry is to build winter gas reserves abroad and have options for additional deliveries, according to a concept presented in May.

Work in progress

The concept includes two measures. On the one hand, a physical reserve will be set up in neighboring countries. It will have to cover 15%, or just under 6 TWh (terawatt-hour), of Switzerland’s annual gas consumption (around 35 TWh). Currently, nearly 3.8 TWh are already guaranteed, or about 60% of the 6 TWh target.

On the other hand, 6 TWh of gas will have to be acquired in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands in the form of options for non-Russian gas. This volume of gas corresponds more or less to 20% of Swiss consumption in winter. Bids have been submitted for the options, which will now vest, says the Federal Council.

The five regional companies Erdgas Ostschweiz, Gasverbund Mitelland, Gaznat, Erdgas Zentralschweiz and Aziende Industriali di Lugaono are each implementing measures separately. They will have to optimize “with caution” the use of their storage gas, whatever the level of crisis.

Third-party suppliers have access to storage gas at market conditions. Minimum standards apply to the acquisition of options, eg a delivery clause in the event of an interruption of Russian gas deliveries, a price mechanism, the holding period.

Crisis organization

If the situation worsens, a crisis organization in the gas sector will proceed with the activation of the options. Third-party vendors pay regional companies the cost price of the options plus a 3% surcharge.

For the sector, it is essential that the Federal Council ensures that the sector is not exposed to the risk of sanctions under cartel law. The Federal Council has confirmed this: it will subsequently declare lawful behavior declared unlawful by the Competition Commission. Provided that the detailed concept has been correctly implemented.

In addition, discussions and exploratory work with a view to concluding agreements with neighboring countries are ongoing. During the meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it was agreed to conclude a solidarity agreement with Germany. A first round of negotiations with German partners took place in June.

Berne is also examining how the establishment of gas storage capacities in Switzerland can be encouraged. Information will be given by the end of August. Finally, the Federal Office of Energy is currently preparing a nationwide savings campaign, which will be implemented in cooperation with the economic sector. This campaign aims to inform the population and this sector of energy saving measures that are simple and quick to implement.


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