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Switzerland is preparing for an energy collapse

Stephan Kurmann
Zurich, on 27.07.2022
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook

The Ukraine war and the threat of energy shortages in winter are calling preppers to the scene: sales of power generators, solar panels, power stations and heaters are exploding. Unless the situation on the European electricity market eases in the near future, Digitec Galaxus continues to expect record sales.

Currently, air conditioners and fans are in high demand at Digitec Galaxus – as we’ve previously noted. However, a part of the population isn’t (just) thinking about the summer heat, but about possible blackouts in winter as well. Some are already preparing for an uncomfortable scenario: acute shortages of gas and electricity.

An energy shortage looms – the Swiss population is gearing up

One thing in advance: Switzerland’s energy supply is currently secure according to information from the federal government. According to estimates by the Swiss Federal Electricity Commission ElCom, however, the power situation could become tense this coming winter. The war in Ukraine, uncertain gas supplies from Russia and low reserves, as well as possible import restrictions on electricity from France and Germany, make for a dangerous mix. This impending energy shortage is now reflected in the purchasing behaviour of our customers – heaters, power stations, power generators and solar panels are popular products among our customers.

If there’s no gas for heating…

The most obvious growth is in radiators. Until May, sales figures were below or just at the previous year’s level. Demand multiplied in June (+372%) and July (+398%).

There’s a reason for this growth in sales: in Switzerland, around two thirds of all buildings are heated with fossil fuels – 20 per cent with gas. Gas heating is most common in urban areas, as the map below shows. And Switzerland obtains 43 per cent of its gas from Russia. This dependency creates uncertainty and is reflected in the current purchasing behaviour of consumers in Switzerland.

Where gas is used for heating in Switzerland

Share of residential buildings with gas heating per municipality, in per cent. Graphics: Watson, Source: Federal Statistical Office (FSO)
Share of residential buildings with gas heating per municipality, in per cent. Graphics: Watson, Source: Federal Statistical Office (FSO)

Mobile power is in demand more than ever

Growth is also striking for power stations: Once charged, these portable power supplies charge electronic devices. The devices usually work with conventional or lithium batteries. In March – shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February – we recorded our biggest sales growth this year. Our customers purchased 515 per cent more power stations than in March 2021. Demand has remained very high to date – in June we sold more mobile generators than ever before – and in July, we’re already 353 per cent up on the previous year.

Generate electricity yourself – with gasoline and diesel

Power generators are also booming in Switzerland at the moment. A power generator includes a propulsion unit, usually a diesel or gasoline engine, and a generator that produces electricity from it. Such mobile or stationary devices are used in hospitals or server rooms, for example, keeping these areas functional in the event of a power failure.

The situation surrounding power generators is similar to that for power stations: after the outbreak of the Ukraine war, sales figures exploded. We recorded a 188 per cent increase in sales for March. The situation eased in April and May. Since June, sales have been growing again (+80%), and in July sales are already up on the previous year – probably a consequence of the looming energy crisis, which is receiving a lot of media attention. Additional Info: gasoline cans are also in demand at Galaxus – preppers store gasoline or diesel to feed their power generator in an emergency.

Solar energy for more self-sufficiency

Energy can also be produced with solar panels – without emissions at that. Digitec Galaxus already sold twice as many solar panels in July as in June 2021. We also recorded an 85% increase in sales of solar accessories such as converters.

Are you worried about a possible power shortage come winter? Are you preparing for a possible emergency? Or is a possible energy crisis nothing more than hot air to you? Discuss it with us in the comments.

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