This week, the federal government fixed a voluntary objective for Switzerland to reduce gas consumption by 15% over the coming winter, according to RTS.
The Federal Council’s 15% gas saving objective, announced on 24 August 2021, covers the period between October 2022 and March 2023. The EU has set the same objective.
Switzerland produces no natural gas and possesses no seasonal storage facilities. To build a reserve of natural gas Switzerland must rely on contracts with neighbouring countries. According to the government, this reality means Switzerland must make voluntary cuts to gas consumption to reduce the risk of a shortfall. The target is to cut gas by 15% compared to average consumption over the last 5 years.
In addition, the government has set out a broader plan to ride out any gas shortfall over the winter.
Firstly, households and businesses are being asked to turn heating thermostats down. Heating represents three quarters of Switzerland’s gas consumption. Households consume around 40% of the gas used in Switzerland. Every degree of reduction can cut consumption by 5-6%, says the government. Working from home is also encouraged. This could reduce the need for office heating.
As a second step the government is calling on those that can switch from gas to heating oil to do so. Heating oil supply is less restricted and it can be stored. It is hoped this would cut winter gas consumption by 20%. But it would increase CO2 emissions, which would trigger higher emission tax payments for businesses. The rules are being amended to remove this penalty.
Overall, the plan has a cascade of measures. First households and businesses will be asked to voluntarily cut their gas consumption by turning down thermostats or using alternatives. If this is insufficient then those that can will be asked to switch from gas to heating oil. Next the government will introduce restrictions and bans on gas usage in offices, terraces, sports centres and public buildings. Finally, if necessary, the government will ration gas for all users except for essential services such as hospitals and protected consumers.