Switzerland’s energy vulnerability

Dependence on Russian gas imports and storage capacity issues could make for a hard winter.

The war in Ukraine has triggered a worldwide energy crisis that is being most acutely felt in Europe, including Switzerland. As yet, it is not fully guaranteed that energy needs will be fully met this winter, particularly when it comes to natural gas and electricity.

Switzerland relies a bit less than EU countries on natural gas (15% vs 22% of energy consumption) but this is the source of energy that appears most exposed to supply risk in the months to come, especially as three quarters of its annual gas consumption is concentrated in the months from October to end March.

Switzerland’s first source of vulnerability stems from its high dependence on Russian gas imports (it is estimated around 43% of natural gas consumed in Switzerland ultimately originates in Russia). The second source is Switzerland’s enormous to storage capacity problem. Switzerland’s physical reserves of natural gas, mostly stored in France, account for 6 TWh, or 15% of annual consumption, but this amounts to only about 15 days of winter consumption. The Swiss authorities are currently trying to double this capacity through options to acquire non-Russian gas from France, Germany, Italy and Netherlands. It is nonetheless clear that current gas storage capacity is insufficient and that Switzerland is reliant on its neighbours who themselves are facing gas shortages. It is in this context that the Swiss government, the Federal Council, aims to reduce gas consumption by 15% (the same as in the EU) this winter through voluntary measures.

The Swiss authorities have also taken a number of measures to maximise gas storage and secure additional supplies. Cross-border solidarity mechanisms are also being put in place to minimise the fall-out from possible energy shortages. Nonetheless, like Europe as a whole, Switzerland’s fate may in part be out of its hands as far as energy is concerned. The hope must be that we have a mild winter.

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