February 4, 2023

Switzerland will ban the use of electric cars for ‘non-essential’ travel if the country runs out of energy this winter, the government has announced.

Contingency plans drawn up in case the Swiss are hit by blackouts also call for shop opening hours to be reduced by up to two hours a day, heating systems switched off in nightclubs and other buildings heated to no more than 20C.

Crisis measures can lead to streaming services and game consoles being banned, Christmas lights being switched off and all sports stadiums and leisure facilities being closed.

Switzerland will ban electric cars from the road this winter as the country faces power cuts to save energy (file image)

Switzerland fears an energy shortage in the coming months because it is heavily dependent on imports to get through the winter.

The country gets about 60 percent of its energy from hydropower plants, such as dams across rivers or generators between lakes.

About a third of its energy comes from nuclear power, which the government has pledged to phase out, and the rest comes from a combination of traditional fossil fuel power plants and solar or wind generation.

In general, Switzerland produces enough electricity each year to keep the lights on, but that statistic masks huge differences from month to month.

Because hydropower relies on rainfall and melting snow to replenish rivers and reservoirs, it naturally increases in the spring and summer, but falls off in the fall and winter.

That means the Swiss export large amounts of power to neighboring countries during the warmer, wetter months and import it during the colder months.

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That, in turn, means energy shortages in Europe, caused by Putin’s war in Ukraine, will affect the country, even though it burns almost no Russian gas.

Germany is Switzerland’s largest energy exporter and was heavily dependent on Russian supplies. France is in second place and is currently experiencing problems with its nuclear reactors.

Switzerland is also generating less energy than usual from its hydropower plants as Europe’s exceptionally dry summer caused lakes and rivers to drain.

The Swiss rely on energy imports from France and Germany to get through the winter as dams and reservoirs they rely on for 60 percent of their energy are less productive

The country’s emergency plan is divided into two categories – emergency and crisis – with three degrees of restrictions in the first and four in the second.

It is designed to work like Covid lockdowns, activating each phase depending on the amount of energy available.

Under the least extreme ’emergency’ measures, people will be asked to limit their washing machines to a maximum of 40C, with public buildings heated to no more than 20C – unless it is a hospital or nursing home.

That will drop to 19C below the next throttling level, forcing streaming services to limit the resolution of their videos to standard rather than HD.

Under the next level of ’emergency’ measures, shops will be asked to reduce opening hours by up to two hours a day, restricting electric vehicles to essential journeys only.

That means attending a professional practice, running errands, visiting the doctor, attending religious events, and attending court hearings.

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Under ‘crisis’ measures, hot water in public bathrooms is shut off, air conditioning in private homes is blocked, as is the use of electric leaf blowers.

If we go up the scale, outdoor Christmas lights will be dimmed, escalators will be stopped, and commercial ice cream machines will have to shut down.

Subsequently, swimming pools will have to close, sports stadiums cannot be lit, nightclub lighting will be turned off and cryptocurrency mining will be blocked.

Under the most extreme measures, all leisure businesses must close and all sports competitions are banned, as are concerts, theater and opera.