Blackouts and electricity shortages: Zurich’s contingency plans – Switzerland –

Blackouts and electricity shortages: Zurich's contingency plans - Switzerland -

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It’s a scenario that becomes even more likely in times of crisis: a power outage. In Zurich there are already concrete plans for what will happen in the event of a power outage at the cantonal level.

Our neighboring country has been preparing for possible blackouts for months, and it is already preparing for the 1.5 million inhabitants of Switzerland’s largest canton – Zurich alone has more than 400,000 – for what will happen in the event of an emergency. She provided information on the topic and specific actions at a press conference on Tuesday.

According to the Zurich government council, the “energy shortage” is one of the “most likely crisis scenarios in the near future”. Possible power outages may last for several days. For this reason, residents are already informed in one of the campaigns of what they should already be prepared in the event of a power outage.

Emergency stock recommended

The government advises, among other things, to provide 9 liters of water per person and food for a week, since in the worst case the food supply can no longer be guaranteed. Officials also recommend having a battery-powered radio, flashlight, spare batteries, candles, matches, lighter, gas stove and cash ready. You should also have enough toiletries and a medicine cabinet. In an emergency, cell phones, landlines and the Internet may stop working and supermarkets and gas stations will remain closed.

Overall good power supply

With its own nuclear power plants and plenty of hydroelectric power, Switzerland is actually quite well supplied when it comes to producing its own electricity. However, according to officials, one depends partly on electricity supplies from France and gas supplies from Germany in winter. You can handle 90 percent of a mild winter with self-produced electricity, but otherwise you have to turn to power supplies from outside.

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Power cuts vs power shortages

There is a basic distinction between power outages and power shortages:

lack of energy

In the event of a power shortage, as the term implies, there is a shortage of electricity, i.e. electrical power, in the system. The current production capacities are not able to cover the demand for electricity. This can happen, for example, due to the failure of many electricity producers, but often it also happens gradually due to increased energy consumption (for example in a cold winter). The Swiss Federal Council then orders supply and consumption monitoring. which is called Austral-Situation:

Austral = Organization for supplying power in unusual situations

black out

Unlike in the case of electricity, blackouts usually produce enough power to meet demand. But there is a sudden failure. The unfortunate series of circumstances can mean that energy can no longer be transferred from the power plant to the consumer. An unexpected event (such as a power plant failure, a hacking attack, a natural phenomenon) can lead to a significant change in frequency or overload and, as a consequence, to automatic shutdown, as well as to prevent further blackouts, for example throughout Europe . This is called a UFLS condition.

UFLS = Automatic Frequency Dependent Load Separation (Under Frequency Load Separation)

planned measures

Measures against electricity shortages are divided into so-called degrees of readiness (BG): while BG 2 and 3 provide only voluntary measures, compulsory measures are set at readiness level 4. Here, for example, there can be centralized control of the Swiss power plant, or bans on certain electricity consumers (consumption restrictions or bans on extremely unnecessary and energy-consuming applications) or electricity quotas, that is, specific volume restrictions (affecting large consumers by more than 100 MWh annually). This expressly pertains to wholesale consumers, and private households are not affected.

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In addition, the so-called “rolling shutdown of the network” is possible, which, unlike quotas, affects everyone. This means that, if necessary, the electricity will be turned on and off every four hours, which means that there will be no electricity at all for these four hours. However, such periodic shutdowns should be avoided as much as possible: “If this really happened, there wouldn’t be much going on in the canton of Zurich,” says one of the managers. The canton is then divided into two parts, with one half always supplied with electricity for four hours and then the other half. But the whole thing is a worst-case scenario of all, according to officials: “Only when all else fails, there will be a periodic shutdown.”

Citizens’ Appeal

Aside from all the horror scenarios, energy saving is very important in general and especially at the moment. While the canton of Zurich wants to set a good example by restricting building lighting, indoor heating in cantonal buildings and energy-efficient ventilation, the residents are also required to save energy. For example, citizens are advised to purchase a switch to eliminate the consumption of standby power. This can reduce annual electricity consumption by up to ten percent.

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