Switzerland may ban electric cars due to energy crunch

Ukraine war means Swiss face severe limits on electricity use, including EVs, home heating, even hot water. Meanwhile, the nation is phasing out nuclear power

By Verity Bowman, Daily Telegraph, Dec. 3, 2022

Electric cars could be banned from making non-essential journeys in Switzerland this winter under a Covid lockdown-style plan to deal with potential energy shortages. 

Emergency proposals have been drafted by the government that could see buildings heated to no more than 20 degrees Celsius, shop opening hours reduced and streaming services limited. The strictest measures – designed to avoid a blackout in the worst case scenario – include a ban on sports matches, concerts and theatre performances.

Switzerland is bracing for an energy crisis this winter due to its reliance on imports to sustain the country through the colder months. 

Phasing Out Nuclear Power

Hydroelectric power accounts for around 60 per cent of Switzerland’s energy supply. Nuclear power, which the government is working on phasing out, contributes a third, while fossil fuel plants and solar or wind generation add up the rest. 

But there are significant discrepancies in how much electricity Switzerland is able to produce month to month. 

In the wetter months, rainfall and snow pumps up hydroelectric power, meaning the country exports much of what it is able to generate. Switzerland then imports during the colder months, when production is lower. This has left the Swiss vulnerable to energy shortages in Europe because of the war in Ukraine

The country’s emergency response to the risks has two tiers – emergency and crisis – including three levels of restrictions in the first and two in the second. Each stage will be triggered according to the level of supplies available, in a similar way to coronavirus lockdown measures, which were based on cases and infection rates.

Home Appliances, hot water also targeted

The lowest level will see public buildings heated to no more than 20 degrees Celsius, with people asked to limit their washing machines to a maximum of 40 degrees Celsius.

Under the next level, temperatures will be lowered to 19 degrees Celsius and streaming services asked to lower the resolution of videos from HD quality to standard. If the situation worsens, shops will be asked to close two hours early and electric vehicles limited to essential journeys. 

Crisis measures could see hot water disabled in public bathrooms and the use of electric leaf blowers barred. Next, escalators will be stopped and outdoor Christmas lighting turned off. 

Cryptocurrency mining would then be banned if supplies keep dropping, along with swimming pools closed and lights in sports stadiums turned off. If the most extreme shortages hit, sports matches, concerts and theatre performances will be cancelled, and all leisure businesses forced to close. 

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