Because of “state failure”: trade association calls for measures
The Swiss Trade Association is demanding that politicians make concessions in overcoming the energy crisis. Companies should be able to obtain electricity from the basic supply again.
The media conference of the Swiss Trade Association (SGV) in Bern on Monday brought back memories of the most dramatic hours of the corona crisis. The faces were serious, the choice of words somber: “The electricity price increases can break the neck of our economy,” said President Fabio Regazzi right at the beginning. The price hammer is “intolerable, even endangering the existence”.
Responsible for this, according to Regazzi, himself National Councilor (Centre/TI), is politics. The current situation is evidence of “government failure” at all levels: “Political decisions led to a reduction in electricity production capacity, political decisions ensured that the import of energy sources dried up,” Regazzi summed up.
In addition to the fear of the bill, there is also the fear of the forced blackout
Ergo, politicians are now also responsible when companies are confronted with energy cost increases of up to 1000 percent within a year. One of the central demands of the SGV is therefore the expansion of electricity production through deregulation: in the future, small plants should be allowed to be built without a permit, and associations and the population should be deprived of the right to complain about large-scale hydropower and wind power projects.
However, this could only help the companies once the plants have been built. Politicians should therefore also offer a hand in the short term, as the trade association demands. In many companies, the fear of the electricity bill is joined by that of the state-enforced blackout. It is to be feared that the Federal Council will take management measures this winter, such as setting electricity quotas or temporarily banning certain activities, said SGV director Hans-Ulrich Bigler. For many companies, this could have existential implications.
Companies should be allowed to switch back to basic services
The SGV therefore requires an additional escalation level. If the calls for savings are of no use, savings agreements should be concluded with the sectors before the quotas are set, whereby the sectors would be free to implement them. The Federal Council is positive about this approach, said Bigler.
Thirdly, the trade wants to give affected companies the opportunity to run their energy supply again via the basic supply. This does not require a change in the law, but is feasible on the supply route. “The Electricity Supply Act does not rule out a return to basic services,” said Bigler. According to Bigler, the fact that companies that supply themselves on the private market should no longer have access to the basic service is an “interpretation of the administration” that shies away from the administrative effort.
Incentive for price moderation
The corresponding regulation must therefore be specified. The tradesmen do not want to accept the accusation that the companies, which would have benefited from low prices on the free market in good years, now want to benefit from the state again. It is not really a free market, most energy suppliers are in public hands, said Gastrosuisse President Casimir Platzer.
The SGV wants to prevent abuse by setting certain hurdles for a return to the basic service: Companies should comply with a lead time of one year and after a change must remain in the basic service for at least three years. Alternatively, the SGV proposes a maximum penalty of ten percent on the energy part. According to Platzer, this creates an incentive for reducing prices without directly intervening.
However, the call for companies to return to basic services is not well received by an SGV ally. The president of the employers’ association, Valentin Vogt, recently told CH Media: “We have to be careful not to call for state aid every time a crisis develops.” He is surprised at the “many demands for compensation that are already circulating”. During the pandemic, more than CHF 30 billion in new debt accumulated at the federal level alone. “Actually, we should now tighten our belts when it comes to government spending,” says Vogt.