Cantons defend high electricity prices

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“Who really wins here and does big business?” Federal Councilor Simonetta Somaruga asked on Blick TV on Thursday.

Electricity prices are exploding. Swiss households can expect an increase of 30%. Companies that buy electricity on the open market pay up to 2,000% more. But at present, there is no state aid. The Federal Council says the prices are manageable.

Instead, the government appoints the energy companies. “Who really wins here and does big business?” asked Federal Councilor Simonetta Somaruga (62) on Blick TV on Thursday. “Some companies can suddenly make billions in profits. You must be wondering what to do with the extra profits.

This is a direct attack on electricity merchants, who sell the juice at increasingly higher prices at the same cost of production. Axpo made a profit of CHF 500 million, Alpiq of CHF 114 million in the first half. BKW will present its half-year results on Tuesday.

But what is the role of the crisis in this? How to calculate the additional profit? There is no clear answer to this. It’s even more controversial now.

“The Federal Council must act”

Swissmem chairman Martin Hirzel (52) has accused the energy giant of making huge profits without doing much for itself. The industry association is now in talks with them. Swissom declined to comment specifically on the request. But the objective seems clear: additional profits should accrue to companies in difficulty.

The trade association and Gastrosuis, on the other hand, want the Federal Council to be held to account: it should allow companies that previously bought electricity on the free market to return to the original supply. “Rising prices threaten the existence of countless companies and employees,” says Casimir Platzer (60), president of Gastrosuis. “The Federal Council must act.”

Alexander Keberle (30), head of energy at Economiesuisse, agrees that we have to talk about helping companies whose existence is threatened. “But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We are therefore skeptical about a massive withdrawal of companies towards basic supplies or a reduction in profits for energy suppliers. It’s also about the government cap on electricity prices. applies. This is what SP National Councilor Gabriella Suter (49) threatens: “It should not happen that energy companies produce electricity at the price of six centimeters per kilowatt hour and resell it for more than one franc. sold in the market”.

The National Council’s Energy Commission sent a letter to the Federal Council this week. It calls for a round table with the electricity companies and their public owners – municipalities, towns and cantons. “As an owner, you have to make sure that companies give the profits out of the crisis,” says Gabriella Sutter. “Otherwise, the federal government should limit prices.” If necessary, the PS will launch a similar initiative in the autumn session.

Roberto Schmidt warns against paying dividends

How are the cantons reacting? Wallace State Councilor Roberto Schmidt (60) is the new chairman of the Energy Directors’ Conference (EnDK). He adds: “Free market companies have benefited from very low electricity prices over the years.” For this reason, large electricity producers, in particular operators of hydroelectric power stations, have had to sell their electricity in recent years, sometimes at a loss. “After that, a rooster did not crowed.”

But Schmidt also says: “Management of power producers who now benefit from higher prices – and owners too – need to think carefully about what they do with these gains. It will be difficult to understand why. Is there a massive dividend being paid now? The ENDK chairman therefore proposes: “Funding should ideally go to the expansion of renewable energies in Germany.”

Schmidt is of no use for the price range: “You can’t say for years that electricity is too cheap and you have to make it more expensive with incentive taxes, for example – and more it goes up, the more the prices go up.” become limited. »

This is why electricity prices are rising

In Switzerland, six million customers buy electricity on the basic market, or about 40 terawatt hours per year. Prices are controlled by the state and until recently were higher than on the European free market. 23,000 energy-intensive Swiss companies buy electricity there, or about 20 terawatt hours per year. Gas prices on the open market are decisive. You set the electricity prices – the experts talk about the merit order theory. As long as gas is expensive, so will electricity.

In Switzerland, six million customers buy electricity on the basic market, or about 40 terawatt hours per year. Prices are controlled by the state and until recently were higher than on the European free market. 23,000 energy-intensive Swiss companies buy electricity there, or about 20 terawatt hours per year. Gas prices on the open market are decisive. You set the electricity prices – the experts talk about the merit order theory. As long as gas is expensive, so will electricity.

BWK goes on the offensive

And what are the energy companies saying? “BKW does not profit from the current price increase and cannot offer its customers cheaper electricity,” the Bernese company points out. The French-speaking Swiss conglomerate Alpic says: “Currently, the extremely high electricity prices on the stock exchanges are not sustainable for anyone.” Discussions are taking place, but not publicly.

BKW has also taken an aggressive stance, warning that there is something companies can do too, including reducing energy consumption and reducing supply costs and energy consumption.

The support for the electricity suppliers comes from GLP President Jürg Grossen (53): “The lack of profits due to the crisis must be ruled out, as must the price cap. These are populist claims that miss the point. Not all electricity suppliers will make a profit under any circumstances. “Furthermore, the so-called crisis profits cannot be easily distinguished from normal profits. It is not practical. »

The deciding factor is that the country now wastes less energy and electricity without profit, says Grosson. “Also because we are closely integrated into the European electricity and gas network. We must show solidarity.

If Switzerland wants guarantees, it will have to give them too

German Economy Minister Robert Hebeck (53) sees it that way. “In the event of a gas emergency in Germany, the fields that are currently supplied from Germany will also be affected,” says Habeck’s ministry on request – and waves the fence post: “In this regard, measures to savings will certainly make sense and will be necessary.”

Federal Councilor Somaruga has been trying for a long time to conclude solidarity agreements with neighboring countries. Habeck’s ministry says solidarity should be mutual. “Switzerland can play an active role here. Then an agreement will be seen not only in one direction, but also in mutual support. »

In other words: if Switzerland wants guarantees, it must also offer something. A significant reduction in your own energy consumption will be a start. There are enough incentives, including electricity prices.

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