Sweden to help households as electricity prices soar

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STOCKHOLM – Sweden said on Wednesday it had earmarked some SEK 6 billion ($ 661 million) for a temporary program to help the most affected households in the Scandinavian country deal with high electricity bills this winter.

Households consuming more than 2,000 kilowatt-hours per month can get compensation of about 2,000 crowns ($ 220) per month for the three months from December to February. Some 1.8 million homes are affected, the government said.

“This is an exceptional measure in an exceptional situation, it is unusual to intervene with support when prices fluctuate in the markets,” said Finance Minister Mikkel Damberg.

Sweden’s one-party and minority Social Democratic government is expected to gain majority support for the plan in the 349-seat Riksdag.

Swedish homeowners have already started adopting strategies to reduce their consumption – turn down the heat, close rooms, use alternative heat sources like wood-burning stoves, and wear thick woolen socks.

“It’s a crazy situation to be in,” said Hannah Hall, who lives in an old wooden house in Kristinehamn, a small town in central Sweden. “I knew it would be an expensive winter, but it feels unprecedented.”

Hall was billed 10,400 crowns ($ 1,150) for his electricity use in December, about tripled the year before, to heat his 130-square-meter (1,400-square-foot) home.

His family also uses wood stoves as extra heat to keep the living room comfortable, but “the wood is running out in our shed and all the farmers have no wood left” to sell as people seek to diversify their markets. heating source.

The fact that Hall is working from home due to the pandemic has increased their heating needs. Chunky woolen socks designed as a fun gift by her employer as her business moved to working from home came in handy and her husband stopped using their little addiction as a home office to avoid lighting up additional heating.

“We are in a lucky financial situation… but for others it must be really difficult and a big worry,” she said, adding that they consume 23,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.

There have been reports of people taking bank loans to pay their electricity bills.

“I understand that people are worried about their finances,” Swedish Energy Minister Khashayar Farmanbar said.

Electricity prices in Sweden have increased as cold temperatures have increased demand and gas prices in Europe continue to rise.

According to data from the Swedish energy market regulator, electricity costs for an average apartment in the southern half of the country, where a large majority of Swedes live, rose 266% year-on-year in December, while that the cost of an average home with electric heat has jumped 361% on average over the same period.

“Sure, energy companies could educate their customers better,” said Jens Lundgren, the regulator’s deputy chief economist, but he believes consumers could do more to mitigate costs by “investing time to understand the energy market. ‘energy and the resulting potential savings. to use available smart energy-saving products,’ such as heat pumps, smart electric vehicle chargers, or timers that power devices only when prices are low. electricity are lower.

In December, neighboring Norway said help would be available to households that use up to 5,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month. This decision will cost the country around 5 billion crowns (567 million dollars).

“We have focused on helping as many people as possible,” Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum said in December. “We hope these measures will provide a little more breathing space. “


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