Sweden to help households as electricity prices soar

Sweden’s government said it had set aside about 6 billion crowns ($661 million) for a temporary scheme to help the Scandinavian country’s worst-hit households cope with high electricity bills this winter

STOCKHOLM – Sweden announced on Wednesday that it had set aside about 6 billion crowns ($661 million) for a temporary program to help the Scandinavian country’s worst-affected households cope with high electricity bills this winter.

Households that consume more than 2,000 kWh per month for the three months from December to February can receive compensation worth about 2,000 crowns ($220) per month. About 1.8 million households were affected, the government said.

“This is an exceptional measure in exceptional circumstances and it is unusual to provide support when market prices are volatile,” Finance Minister Mikel Danberg said.

Sweden’s one-party, minority Social Democratic government is expected to win a majority in the 349-seat parliament.

Homeowners in Sweden have begun adopting strategies to lower their consumption – turning off the heat, shutting down rooms, using alternative heat sources such as wood burners and wearing thick wool socks.

“It’s a crazy situation,” said Hannah Hall, who lives in an old wooden house in the central Swedish town of Kristinashavn. “I know it’s going to be an expensive winter, but it feels like never before.”

Hall, who heats her 130-square-meter (1,400-square-foot) home, used 10,400 crowns ($1,150) in electricity in December, about double the previous year.

The fact that Hall has been working from home due to the pandemic has increased their heating needs. Thick wool socks, which were supposed to be a fun gift from her employer, came in handy when her company moved to work from home, and her husband stopped using their small outhouse as a home office, to avoid turning on additional heaters.

“We’ve been lucky financially … but everyone else, it must be very tough and a big worry,” she said, adding that they use 23,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year.

In December, neighbouring Norway said it would support households using up to 5,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month. The move will cost the country about 5 billion crowns ($567 million).

“We have always been committed to helping as many people as possible,” Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum said in December. “We hope these measures will provide more breathing room.”