When the energy runs out, the heaters have to be turned down – but not to the same extent everywhere. This is met with criticism: the concept is incomprehensible and harbors a high potential for conflict. It is not the only objection to the Federal Council’s emergency plan.
No Netflix, heating to a maximum of 18 degrees and a ban on using the ice cream machines: the Federal Council wants to prescribe down to the last detail what everyday life looks like when not enough electricity is flowing. Anyone who does not comply with the regulations must expect hefty penalties. The Federal Council submitted the corresponding ordinances for consultation in November. He wants to prevent electricity from being subject to quotas or being completely switched off in phases – a horror for Switzerland as a business location.
The economy had therefore pushed for private households to be made responsible. But in an emergency, the concept from the department of Economics Minister Guy Parmelin will hardly work satisfactorily. This is shown by the first comments from the cantons and associations on the consultation, which ends on Monday. Last but not least, the directors of justice and police, who are responsible for enforcing the bans and restrictions in an emergency, explain that it is impossible to check whether the regulations are being complied with.
Not even spot checks are possible
The Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors (KKJPD) writes that the cantonal police corps have no resources to monitor regulations – “not even for spot checks”. The same applies to sanctions; the criminal prosecution authorities also lacked the capacity. In its response to the consultation, the canton of Aargau also spoke out against controls in the private sphere.
Numerous cantons will only present their statements in the coming week. In view of the staff shortages in many police corps, it should sound similar in many places. This is not surprising: when the Federal Council announced possible restrictions on gas consumption in September, the cantons declared that they had no resources to check “whether the sauna is switched off or the heating temperature is being maintained”.
Without controls and spot checks, the regulations would probably become a paper tiger. During the Corona period, each individual had a personal interest in adhering to the Federal Council’s measures because this reduced their risk of infection. This individual incentive is lacking in the measures to reduce electricity consumption. Against this background, the KKJPD proposes “credible communication of recommendations and appeals” instead of mandatory regulations in the private sector.
Warning of great potential for conflict
However, it is not only the enforceability of the regulations that is lacking, but also their comprehensibility and coherence. Above all, the various provisions on the permissible heating temperature are developing into a confusing undergrowth: In an emergency, an upper limit of 20 degrees is prescribed for gas heating systems. For rooms that are heated with electric heaters or heat pumps, 18 degrees apply at escalation level 3. And there is no upper limit for oil heating. The fact that different rules apply in many schools and buildings of the cantonal administration makes things even more unmanageable.
“It will be difficult to explain to the population,” write the energy directors with a slightly euphemistic undertone. The municipal utility alliance Swisspower is also bothered by it. The planned differentiation harbors “great potential for conflict” and means that regulations are not observed. Since the gas and electricity supply situation is closely linked, victim symmetry is needed in which all households are treated equally.
In addition, many tenants do not even know how their apartment is heated, says Swisspower – a statement that is also made by the tenants’ association. He emphasizes that the tenants are “in no way involved in the choice of energy source and are dependent on the landlord’s decisions as to whether their building is insulated or not”. For vulnerable groups such as older, sick or disabled people, a temperature of 18 degrees is generally unreasonable.
Elderly people disadvantaged in private housing
The association draws attention to another inconsistency in this context. While the temperature for private apartments is to be capped at an upper limit, there are no such regulations for hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions: “Nothing justifies that elderly people living at home have to endure lower temperatures than those who live in a retirement and nursing home”. , writes the tenants’ association.
He is also really surprised that residential properties should be disadvantaged compared to the hotel industry. While private households are freezing with their electricity-powered heaters and have to lower the hot water temperature to 60 degrees and leave various devices unused, wellness hotels are allowed to keep their saunas and whirlpools in operation seven hours a day.
The Swisspower association also finds this shocking. It is difficult to understand that the Federal Council is protecting tourism and winter sports, he writes. And adds maliciously: Apparently the industry successfully lobbied the Federal Council. However, this does not benefit the acceptance of the Federal Council’s measures.
Car importers feel fooled
For a similar reason, the car importers feel cheated. At the same escalation level, owners of electric cars may only use their vehicles for absolutely necessary journeys such as commuting to work, shopping or going to the doctor and church services. Such a ban is tantamount to house arrest for people who depend on their car and thus represents a very severe restriction of freedom, writes the Auto Schweiz importers’ association.
The energy directors describe the number of electric vehicles as too small anyway for this measure to have the desired effect. Above all, however, this runs counter to all efforts to persuade the population to switch to electromobility. Those who recently invested a lot of money in vehicles with low CO emissions would now be penalized2emissions would have invested, add the car importers.
The car lobby is no less upset that the Federal Council wants to introduce a speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour on the motorways in the event of a crisis. This is purely symbolic politics, says Auto Schweiz. It is hard to imagine that this measure can result in significant electricity savings. In return, however, the speed limit would cost several million francs every day. If the Federal Council sticks to this “arbitrary and anti-car” measure, all legal and political options will be considered to combat it.