People who heat their homes above a certain temperature in Switzerland during the Winter face fines and potentially up to three years in prison if energy rationing measures are put in place.
Under proposed legislation in the home of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Swiss lawmakers are preparing to set legal limits on the use of heating during the winter should the country face energy shortages. Under the plans, gas-heated buildings would be capped at 19C (66.2F) and water heating up to 60C (140F). Saunas and swimming pools would also be forced by government diktat to remain cold.
So-called “heating sinners” in Switzerland who heat buildings above the legal limit will face daily fines of 30 francs ($30/£27) to a maximum of 3,000 francs. Fines for companies that deliberately breach the regulations will likely be much higher.
Most worryingly, individuals who are found to have intentionally violated the energy rationing limit could be jailed for up to three years, the Swiss German-language daily newspaper Blick reported.
Minister of Economic Affairs Guy Parmelin attempted to downplay the draconian measures, saying last week: “We are not a police state”.
“The police will not check everyone – but there can be selective checks,” he said, adding: “The draft regulations are primarily based on the fact that the vast majority of the population adheres to laws.”
However, spokesman for the Federal Department of Finance, Markus Spörndli said that the government will be open to tips from neighbours snitching on their fellow citizens “if the offence were reported and controlled and could subsequently be proven.”
How exactly the government plans to prove such allegations remains a question, given that it is difficult to determine the temperature of the inside of a building from the outside.
Fredy Fässler, the president of the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors, argued that the government should enact such rules with “a sense of proportion” and that officers should not spend their time going door to door checking thermostats.
Fässler also argued against imposing jail sentences, saying that imposing fines — like during the Chinese coronavirus crisis — will be sufficient and will not clog up the court system with complex criminal proceedings over heating.
The imposition of jail time, or indeed fines, is not a done deal yet, as the 26 individual cantons (states) of Switzerland have until the 22nd of this month to raise objections and counter proposals before the legislation is pushed forward.
The proposed rationing regime comes amid increasing concerns about the prospect of Russia cutting off the taps to Europe, with President Vladimir Putin warning on Wednesday that if the European Union tries to impose a price cap on Russian gas imports, he would cut off all forms of energy to the bloc.
While Switzerland is not a member state of the European Union, it broke with its traditional stance of neutrality to join the EU’s sanctions on Russia earlier this year following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
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