Swiss launch energy conservation drive, plan rationing moves

·2-min read
Electricity power lines and a windmill turbine are pictured in Dorenaz

ZURICH (Reuters) -The Swiss government launched a voluntary campaign on Wednesday to urge consumers and businesses to conserve energy as shortages of gas and power loom this winter that could lead to rationing in a worst-case scenario.

More than 40 partners from the public and private sector are backing the drive with the motto "Energy is scarce. Let's not waste it", the government said.

"The aim is for as many people as possible to participate voluntarily - and to help prevent Switzerland from getting into a shortage situation in the first place," it said.

The campaign is scheduled to last until April and features tips on how to cut demand, for instance by turning down thermostats, using less hot water, and turning off appliances and lighting when not in use.

The government plans a series of increasingly strict steps, including bans and rationing, should conservation fail to head off shortages.

A draft decree under discussion calls for banning gas for heating vacant buildings, swimming pools, spas or saunas. Gas could not be used in fireplaces or heated tents.

Rooms heated with gas cannot be warmed greater than 19 degrees Celsius (66.2°F), with water heaters capped at 60 degrees.

Households and services such as hospitals, homes for the elderly, police, firefighters, sewage treatment and trash collection would not be subject to rationing under a proposal the government sent out for three weeks of consultations.

Last week, Switzerland set a voluntary gas savings target of 15% for the winter as Europe faces a potential gas shortage as a consequence of the Ukraine war.

The country could resort to rolling four-hour regional blackouts should the crisis lead to power shortages.

Switzerland gets its gas via trading hubs in neighbouring countries in the European Union.

The country has relatively low demand for gas, which traditionally covers around 15% of total energy consumption. Around 42% of gas is used to heat households, and the rest in industry and in the service and transport sectors.

(Reporting by Michael ShieldsEditing by Tomasz Janowski and Bernadette Baum)