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Swiss warn of blackout danger in worst-case scenario for 2025

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Switzerland would be without power for nearly two days in a worst-case scenario of what might happen in 2025 without a sweeping electricity deal with the surrounding European Union, the government said on Wednesday.

Prospects for such a power union to ensure the smooth flow of electricity across borders suffered a big blow in May, when Bern’s talks on a new bilateral treaty with Brussels fell apart. The EU has said the Swiss will get no additional access to the single market in the absence of such a pact.

The Swiss government has been planning how to bolster the domestic electricity network as it makes the transition to producing more energy from renewables and hydropower while phasing out nuclear energy.

It is keeping a special eye on 2025, when new EU rules take effect requiring European transmission system operators to keep at least 70% of the cross-border network capacities free for electricity trading within the EU.

The impact of this on non-EU member Switzerland is unclear, but it could significantly reduce Swiss power import capacity.

A study commissioned by the state looked at three stress scenarios in which capacities with neighbouring countries are reduced drastically while the Swiss nuclear reactor blocks the Beznau I + II power plants and a third of French nuclear plants are unavailable.

In one scenario, in which there is no cooperation with the EU, neighbouring countries restrict transmission capacity to and from Switzerland.

“Normally, network and supply security are guaranteed. In the worst case defined for the study, however, the situation becomes critical towards the end of March: domestic electricity demand could then no longer be met for 47 hours,” it found.

Such a threat disappears should a power union come into force or the Swiss can conclude technical agreements with European transmission system operators that assure Switzerland is taken into account when the 70% rule kicks in, it added.

Photo – EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI

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