Russia severed natural gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline earlier this month in apparent retaliation against Western Europe for supporting Ukraine. As Sommaruga pushes fellow citizens to reduce energy consumption by 15% to conserve limited power supplies, she told readers of the Swiss newspaper 20 Minuten that they could “turn off the computer when you don’t need it, or turn off lights, or shower together,” according to a report from The Times.
After mockery on social media, Sommaruga amended her remarks — clarifying that the advice was for younger people and acknowledging that “after a certain age, showering together is no longer suitable for everyone.”
Swiss officials recently provoked ire for a policy that could allow the sanctioning of residents who do not follow emergency energy guidelines. According to a report from Swiss news outlet Blick, the nation’s Federal Law on National Economic Supply permits authorities to fine and imprison residents who consume too much natural gas if rationing becomes necessary.
Among other measures, those who fail to comply with setting their thermostats above 19 degrees Celsius, roughly 66 degrees Fahrenheit, during the winter could receive sanctions between 30 and 3,000 Swiss francs, the equivalent of $31 and $3,090. Those found intentionally violating the statute would receive up to three years in prison, and those found with negligent violations could be forced to pay 180 days’ worth of fines.
Meanwhile, residents would be unable to heat swimming pools, saunas, radiant heaters, or warm air tents under the orders, while hot water would not be allowed to reach temperatures above 60 degrees Celsius, or 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ministers in the European Union — of which Switzerland is not a part — are likewise contending with energy prices that have increased as much as twentyfold in some member states. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen asserted that Russia is responsible for the economic troubles and called for redistributing profits from fossil fuel companies.
“We are proposing a cap on the revenues of companies that produce electricity at a low cost. These companies are making revenues they never accounted for, they never even dreamt of,” von der Leyen said in her most recent state of the union address. “In our social market economy, profits are good. But in these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record profits benefitting from war and on the back of consumers. In these times, profits must be shared and channeled to those who need it the most.”
The European Union has adopted the official policy of becoming “a climate-neutral society” by 2050 in accordance with the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement. Other member states countries have joined Switzerland in regulating or discouraging energy usage. Officials in Spain have mandated that thermostat levels remain no lower than 27 degrees Celsius, roughly 80 degrees Fahrenheit, during the summer months, while the French government asked for a 10% voluntary reduction in the nation’s energy consumption.
Several large European manufacturers are shuttering their factories as energy prices climb. The producer price index for industrial products in Germany, the continent’s largest economy, has risen 45.8% year-over-year as of August 2022, according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany.