How long could Switzerland last without importing energy?

If it is impossible to obtain supplies from abroad, Switzerland could go on without importing hydrocarbons for between 2½ and 5 months, depending on the type of oil product. In the case of electricity, Switzerland could last only between one and three weeks in winter without importing electricity from abroad.

As Switzerland has no commercially exploitable oil and gas deposits, it relies entirely on imports to cover its need for fossil fuels. Switzerland has protected itself against the risk of supply disruptions by obliging importers of petroleum products (petrol, diesel, heating oil) and natural gas to build up strategic stocks. These legal reserves should enable Switzerland to continue to operate autonomously for around four and a half months. The Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) is responsible for monitoring these mandatory stocks.

It should be noted that Switzerland does not directly constitute reserves of natural gas, as to date it has not identified suitable geological conditions for such storage in its subsoil. Instead, it stores extra-light heating oil (oil) which can be rapidly substituted for natural gas in the boilers provided for this purpose (approximately 40% of the consumption of natural gas in Switzerland can be substituted). Such a substitution would also be possible in gas-fired power plants if Switzerland decided to build such plants [→ Q90].

The situation is more complex for electricity. In the summer, Switzerland produces enough and could go without importing electricity. In the winter, on the other hand, when our demand for electricity is at its highest, when the level of filling of our storage dams (degree of filling between 10 and 20%) and the flow of our rivers is at a minimum, we have to import electricity on a daily basis.

An extreme case might occur in winter; if we had to empty our dams all at once to compensate for a break in imports in January, we would be able to last for only two to three weeks following the filling level of our dams before facing an electricity shortage.


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