Electricity cuts lasting several hours are predicted this winter in Switzerland, according to Laurianne Altwegg, vice president of the Federal Electricity Commission. This winter we should ensure we have enough candles and wood for a wood stove for those who have one, advised Altwegg in an interview with RTS.
Outages may not occur, but it is necessary to be prepared, he said. During the coming winter, it is estimated that Switzerland could fall 3 TWh short of the electricity it needs. 3 TWh is around 9% of Switzerland’s annual electricity consumption.
The problem is compounded by several factors. This winter it will be more difficult to cover the shortfall by importing electricity from neighbouring countries as Switzerland normally does – Switzerland typically imports around 5 TWh of electricity over winter. Currently, around half of the nuclear reactors in France have been stopped for maintenance so France has less electricity to export. And gas dependent Germany is feeling the pinch – around 15% of electricity in Germany comes from gas.
Circumstances that may help are the potential for current high electricity prices to reduce demand, more precipitation to increase potential hydro production and higher output from Switzerland’s nuclear power stations.
Cutting electricity consumption is another avenue the government is promoting. Avoiding clothes dryers and electric heaters and turning off unneeded lights and ensuring they are LED and are obvious ways to save.
Another is leaving electric cars in the garage in lieu of alternatives such as trains and cycling. Electricity consumption per household in Switzerland is between 4500 to 5000 kilowatt hours per year for an average four-person household. An average electric car driven 20,000 km a year could consume 4,000 kWh1 of electricity, almost doubling an average family’s annual electricity consumption. So leaving it in the garage could really help to keep the lights on.
Reducing or cutting the running of lifts and snow making equipment in Switzerland’s ski resorts over winter is also being discussed.
1 Average electric car consumption: around 200 Wh per km x 20,000 = 4,000 KWh