Sweden to help households as electricity prices soar

STOCKHOLM (AP) – Sweden on Wednesday announced it had earmarked some SEK 6 billion ($ 661 million) for a temporary program to help the most affected households in the Scandinavian country cope 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 Riksdag plan, which has 349 seats.

Homeowners in Sweden 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 double the previous year, to heat his 130-square-meter (1,400-square-foot) home.

The fact that Hall is working from home due to the pandemic has increased their heating needs. Chunky woolen socks designed as a fun giveaway 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.

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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