Shortage risk: Rising energy prices: Bern can support households

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The Federal Council is closely examining the situation to determine whether assistance should be provided to individuals and SMEs, says Simonetta Sommaruga, who cannot rule out a shortage.

As for heating costs, the government is monitoring developments “very closely to determine whether support is needed to mitigate hardships”.

20min/Simon Glauser

To mitigate the effects of rising energy prices, the Federal Council is investigating a state aid solution to relieve households. So it has already set up a working group, Simonetta Sommaruga indicates in an interview with the “SonntagsZeitung” of the day, which has also already discussed it with the cantons.

Next rate round in the fall

However, the energy minister did not want to specify the form of the aid discussed in Bern. “The next round of tariffs for electricity will take place in the autumn and then we will have to keep a close eye on the extent of the increase in electricity prices for private individuals. And what measures might be needed, at least for low-income households and for certain SMEs,” she adds.

As for heating costs, she says the government is ” closely monitoring developments to determine whether aid is needed to ease the hardships”.

Heating and electricity guaranteed unless…

Simonetta Sommaruga wanted to be reassuring and indicated that the Federal Council “has done everything to ensure that there is enough gas and electricity in winter, and we are in close contact with the sector, which is indeed responsible for the purchase “.

But what if Vladimir Putin suddenly decided to turn off the gas tap? The federal councilor acknowledges that while gas reservoirs across Europe are now filling up, the energy situation has further deteriorated due to the war in Ukraine. This with “particularly very strong price fluctuations and therefore a lot of money that the electricity companies have to find to cover themselves. Hence a risk of lack of liquidity and chain reactions in Europe.

“In the worst case scenario, she adds, we could witness a widespread fire that would also affect Switzerland and threaten our electricity supply.” That’s why the Federal Council is planning a rescue plan that he presented last week. It aims to reduce the liquidity problems of systemically important electricity companies, avoid bankruptcies and guarantee the country’s electricity supply in all cases.

When asked whether Switzerland, a neutral country, could boycott Russian gas, Simonetta Somarruga replies that it is not a matter of neutrality policy. Rather, the question is whether we can afford it in terms of energy policy. Therefore, we must be careful to distance ourselves from gas, and also from oil. Switzerland sends 8 billion francs abroad every year for this. We would be better off investing that money in our own country.”

Faced with the reproaches of the Russian ambassador to Switzerland for having renounced his neutrality by adopting sanctions and condemning the attacks on the civilian population, she believes that, given the violations of international law and the atrocities committed by the Ukrainians affected, unable to remain silent.

And Simonetta Sommaruga recalls that the sanctions are compatible with neutrality. “Ultimately, the Russian attack on Ukraine is also an attack on Europe and our values: we resolutely defend our values, democracy, human rights, peace and solidarity,” she concluded.

Given the risk of scarcity, Economiesuisse wants the Confederation to be able to subsidize electricity from nuclear energy in the event of an emergency, the NZZ am Sonntag reports today. The umbrella association of companies believes that existing safe nuclear power plants, but whose profitability is no longer assured, should be eligible for state aid if they are “essential for a reliable electricity supply”. It justifies its appeal to Berne by slow progress in the development of renewable energy sources.

Christophe Mäder, president of the association, also believes that “from the point of view of supplying the country, the decision to arrest Mühleberg was negligent”. According to him, an operating company should no longer be able to decide alone to shut down its nuclear power plant, while neglecting the country’s supplies.

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