Sweden to help households as electricity prices soar

AP , Wednesday 12 Jan 2022

Sweden announced Wednesday it had earmarked some 6 billion kronor ($661 million) for a temporary scheme to help the most affected households across the Scandinavian country to cope with high electricity bills this winter.

Picture taken on February 10, 2021 shows power lines in the winter landscape in the countryside north of Stockholm, Sweden. The Swedish government on January 12, 2022 proposed relief for households affected by high electricity prices. AFP

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

'This is an exceptional measure in an exceptional situation, it is unusual to go in with support when prices fluctuate in markets,'' said Finance Minister Mikkel Damberg.

Sweden's one-party, minority Social Democratic government is expected to get majority backing for the plan in the 349-seat Riksdag.

Home owners in Sweden have already started adopting strategies to lower their consumption _ turning down the heating, closing off rooms, using alternative heat sources like wood log burners and wearing thick wooly 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 was aware it would be an expensive winter, but it feels unprecedented.''

Hall was billed 10,400 kronor ($1,150) for her December electricity consumption, about double the previous year, to heat her 130 square meter (1,400 square feet) home.

The fact that Hall has been working from home because of the pandemic has added to their heating requirements. Thick wooly socks meant as a fun gift by her employer as her company shifted to work-from-home have come in handy and her husband has stopped using their small outhouse as a home office to avoid turning on the extra heater.

'We're in a lucky financial situation . but other people, it must be really tough and a big worry,'' she said, adding they use 23,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

There have been reports of people taking bank loans to be able to pay their electricity bill.

'I understand that people are worried about their finances,'' Sweden's Energy Minister Khashayar Farmanbar said.

In December, neighboring Norway said support will be available to households that use up to 5,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each month. The move will cost the nation about 5 billion kroner ($567 million).

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

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