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Electricity end consumption rose in 2006 to reach a new high of 57.8 billion kWh (2005: 57.3 billion kWh), which represents an increase of 0.8% versus the prior year (2005: +2.1%). In the warm 4th quarter of 2006, end consumption was 2.1% below the level recorded in the same quarter in 2005, while increases of between 0.5% and 3.8% were recorded for the other quarter-year periods. In the 1st quarter of 2006, the sharp increase (+3.8%) in end consumption and the reduction in the production capacity of storage power plants by around 25% resulted in a pronounced increase in electricity imports. In the 2nd and 3rd quarters, end consumption only increased very moderately (+0.5% and +0.9% respectively). In contrast to 2005, the increase of around 15% in domestic production in the summer resulted in an export surplus. Due to the warm weather conditions at the end of the year, domestic demand fell by 2.1%. The higher level of domestic electricity production versus the same period last year meant that, in the 4th quarter, the quantity of electricity that had to be imported was considerably lower than in the 4th quarter of 2005.
Economic and population growth were two significant factors that contributed towards the increase in electricity consumption. According to the statistics of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco), Switzerland's gross domestic product (GDP) was 2.7% higher in 2006 than the level recorded in 2005. The provisional figures of the Swiss Federal Office for Statistics show that Switzerland's mean population rose by approximately 56,000 (or 0.7%) in 2006. The decrease in the number of heating degree days by 7.7% dampened electricity consumption in 2006. The cooler winter months of January and March 2006 were offset by a significantly warmer period at the end of the year (October to December).
Overall electricity production in Switzerland rose in 2006 by 7.3% to 62.1 billion kWh (2005: 57.9 billion kWh). In the first quarter, domestic production was 8.9% below the level recorded in the same quarter last year, while in the remaining three quarter-year periods, domestic production increased by between 7.6% and 16.6%.
As a result of below-average production conditions, hydropower plants generated 0.6% less electricity than in 2005 (fluvial power plants, +5.5%; storage power plants, -5.8%). In the first half of the year, production from hydropower plants was 12.7% below the level in the same period last year, but in the second half it increased by 12.8%.
Electricity production from Swiss nuclear power plants rose by 19.2% to reach a new high of 26.2 billion kWh (2005: 22.9 billion kWh). Beznau I and II (total), Gösgen and Leibstadt all reported record production levels in 2006. This increase in production can be partly explained by the fact that Leibstadt ceased production in the period from April to August 2005. The availability of the five Swiss nuclear power plants was 93.4% in 2006 (2005: 78.3%).
Hydropower plants contributed 52.4% to Switzerland's overall electricity production, followed by nuclear power plants (42.2%) and conventional thermal and other power plants (5.4%).
In 2006, domestic production exceeded domestic demand (national consumption) during six months of the year. With imports totalling 48.8 billion kWh and exports reaching 46.1 billion kWh, the balance for the full year was an import surplus of 2.7 billion kWh (2005: 6.4 billion kWh). In the 1st and 4th quarters, the balance of imports was 5.4 billion kWh (prior year: 4.7 billion kWh), while an export surplus of 2.7 billion kWh was recorded in the 2nd and 3rd quarters (prior year: import surplus of 1.7 billion kWh).