- The Federal Council intends to set up a hydropower reserve from next winter.
- The reserve is intended to be available in the event of an extreme power shortage.
- The state government is also relying on peak load power plants that have to be operated in a climate-neutral manner.
At its meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Council discussed measures to strengthen the security of supply with electricity. In the event of shortages, he wants to set up a hydropower reserve from the coming winter of 2022/2023.
hydropower and gas power plants
This stipulates that storage power plant operators retain a certain amount of energy for a fee, which can be called up when required. The hydropower reserve is to be introduced by ordinance and later replaced by the regulation provided for in the current revision of the Electricity Supply Act.
The Federal Council wants to use peak load power plants as a second fallback level. These should be operated in a climate-neutral manner. He therefore immediately commissioned Federal Councilor Sommaruga’s Department for the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (UVEK) to begin preparations for the construction and operation of such facilities.
Details and locations still unclear
On the one hand, the UVEK should prepare any tender for peak load power plants. According to the announcement, this includes determining the dimensions and details of the choice of technology and location.
The Federal Council is focusing on infrastructure that is no longer used. It is also to be checked whether the cantonal legislation and the zone planning of the municipality concerned allow a permit at all. At the same time, the Uvek will draw up legal provisions for the attention of Parliament, which Parliament can decide on during the ongoing revision of the Electricity Supply Act.
Specifications – such as the fuel used or compensation – are intended to ensure that the power plants are climate-neutral.
Both reserves should only be used in exceptional situations – namely when the electricity market cannot meet demand. The end consumers will have to bear the costs for the reserve.
Power could soon be scarce
The Federal Council made its decisions based on a report that it had requested from the Federal Electricity Commission (Elcom).
It talks about the construction of two to three gas-fired power plants with a total output of up to 1000 megawatts. According to the report, the investment costs should amount to a maximum of CHF 700 to 900 million.
In addition, there are operating costs of 6 million francs per year and production costs of 138,000 to 243,000 francs per gigawatt hour (GWh) of electricity produced. The background to the reserve planning is that from 2025 the risks for electricity imports will increase.
Homeland security for power plants?
Power plants, electricity and gas networks should not be allowed to be sold abroad. That’s what SP and SVP want. In the consultation, they support a corresponding parliamentary initiative that SP National Councilor Jacqueline Badran submitted in 2016. Industry and the FDP are fighting tooth and nail: 90 percent of the electricity infrastructure already belongs to the public, they argue. One idea is to subject the sales ban to foreign companies to Lex Koller, which actually regulates property acquisition by foreigners.
In the worst case – for example, if large power plants in Germany and abroad fail at the same time – there could be supply bottlenecks “for a few hours” in winter, according to the report.
Use electricity more efficiently
The Federal Council is also focusing on the potential of saving electricity in order to ensure the power supply. Among other things, he wants to use more funding to ensure that electric heaters are replaced. And there could be requirements for the lighting of functional buildings. Furthermore, the minimum requirements in terms of energy efficiency of electrical devices are to be increased.