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Switzerland - Electricity

In Switzerland the voltage is 220-240 (nominally 230) Volts, at 50 Hertz. This is in common with Europe (including UK), Australia, New Zealand, the majority of South America, Asia and Africa. However, if you are bringing electrical equipment from North America or Japan you will need a voltage transformer unit, unless the equipment is already dual voltage. A substantial transformer unit for sustained use can be relatively expensive and only worthwhile if you have high-quality equipment, otherwise it is worth considering whether it would be better to buy new electrical equipment in Switzerland.

Switzerland does have its own plug socket (outlet) type which is known as a Type J, although you may come across the Europlug (Type C). To use non-Swiss equipment and appliances with a recessed electricity socket will require a travel plug adapter. If the socket is not recessed you will find the dual pin plugs of bordering European countries should fit without an adapter.

Switzerland's electricity is supplied via a combination of power imported from Germany and France and its own power plants. In the event of powercuts in bordering countries, the Swiss are able to independently manage their domestic electricity supply, with strong power infrastructure and good reserves, and are able to avoid the majority of outages. Power is generated largely from renewable sources but also currently via Switzerland's nuclear power plants. The older plants will be decommissioned at the end of their lifespan over the next couple of decades.

The cantons each appoint their own electricity suppliers, which means that at time of writing your local power company will still have a monopoly and you will be unable to choose an alternative. From 2014 this is set to change as the Swiss electricity market undergoes a phased liberalisation. Once private individuals are able to choose their supplier, online comparison services such as comparis.ch will be useful in helping you to compare alternatives. See below for contact details of the present electricity suppliers in Zurich and Geneva.

If you are renting or moving into a pre-owned property you will normally find the supply already connected and will simply take on the bills from the date of your move, notifying the company of your details and ensuring that they have the correct date for the changeover for the address. If you are a tenant, your landlord will usually take care of this on you behalf. Bear in mind that you will have your own personal usage in rented accommodation but will also be billed for power to shared areas via the Nebenkosten (although you will pay this monthly, based on consumption estimates, you can expect to have additional charges to settle at the end of the year when actual figures have been obtained). If buying a new house or one that has been unoccupied for some time, call your regional electricity company to obtain a connection. You may be asked to provide proof of ownership of the property.

As a homeowner or a tenant responsible for your own electricity supply (occasionally your private usage will be included in the Nebenkosten, but if this isn't specified then you will be billed for it) you will receive quarterly bills from your supplier. It is usual for the supplier to only read the meters annually, although there may be a reading taken 6 months after you move in. Because of this, your bills between meter readings will only be estimates and there may be an additional amount to settle at the end of the year from which payments already made will be deducted. Occasionally, the electricity company may repay you money if you have been overcharged when your end of year bill is calculated. Most companies now offer an electronic billing service where you can receive and pay bills online. This initiative is known as e-bill.ch and is offered in conjunction with over 90 Swiss financial services. Other options for settling your bill are payment at the bank, post office counter or by direct debit.

Useful Phrases for Household Fuel Bills

Nebenkosten (NBK) (F: charges) = a monthly fee for utilities and services charge in rented accommodation
Abrechnung (F: décompte) = bill settlement
Schlussabrechnung (F: bilan final) = final balance payable on leaving supplier
Nebenkostenabrechnung = end of year bill to settle the remainder owed for actual utilities usage in rented accommodation
Akonto (F: acompte) = part payment on account
Pauschal (F: tarif forfaitaire) = fixed fee
Akontorechnung (F: facture d'acompte) = preliminary estimated bill
Strom/Energie (F: énergie) = electricity supply
Allgemeinstrom (F: énergie générale) = general power supply (i.e. communal areas)
Netznutzung (F: utilisation du réseau) = network usage
Betreibung (F: poursuite) = debt recovery

Useful Resources

Zurich Electricity Supplier
EKZ, Postfach 2254, CH 8022 Zürich
Tel: 058 359 55 22
Email: kundendienst@ekz.ch or use contact form
Emergencies: 0848 888 788 (24 hours)

SIG: Services Industriels de Genève
Geneva Electricity Supplier
Case postale 2777, CH 1211 Genève 2
Tel: 0844 800 808
Email: Use contact form
Emergencies: 022 420 88 11 (24 hours)

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