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News > Sweden

Swedes Brace for Dark, Cold Winter as Energy Crisis Ravages

  • Swedes Brace for Dark, Cold Winter as Energy Crisis Ravages
Published 7 November 2022

In wintertime, "light is life" -- and the ongoing energy crisis threatens to have a devastating impact here both materially and psychologically.

While many Swedes have chosen to switch off their lights to save money on power bills, unfortunately this is not an option for Helen Hogberg, who owns a lighting shop in Stockholm's Old Town.

Day and night, dozens of light bulbs in her shop window cast a cozy glow onto the cobblestone sidewalk. Her business would die in darkness.

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Passerby Ramona Ohlin, marveling at the lamps on display outside the shop, told Xinhua: "Winter is coming; nights are getting longer and colder; it's increasingly depressing."

Ohlin, who lives in an apartment in central Stockholm, complained about the soaring electricity bills, recalling that her landlord had asked her to "use electricity as sparingly as possible."

"This is rather depressing, as it is so dark outside, but I have to save as much as possible," she said.

Between November and early March, most Swedes leave for work and return home in darkness, as the sun rarely seen above the horizon or remains hidden behind thick clouds. In the depth of winter, the Stockholm area has only around 5.5 daylight hours, while in the north of the country almost 20 hours per day are in complete darkness.

In wintertime, "light is life" -- and the ongoing energy crisis threatens to have a devastating impact here both materially and psychologically.

A recent poll shows that more than half of the Swedes are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the future. Two out of three are worried about their increasing household expenses, and confidence in the Swedish households' economic future is at an all-time low.

The energy crisis resulting from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the western sanctions against Russia, a major energy exporter, have hit Europe hard, affecting also Sweden, a country traditionally electricity self-sufficient.

According to Statistics Sweden, the price of electricity increased by 54.2 percent in September year-on-year. Consumers have been particularly hard hit in the south of the country, where spot electricity prices recently surged to five times more expensive than a year ago, according to statistics provided by electricity producer Vattenfall.

To save money on power bills, Ohlin said she would not install electric Christmas tree lights this year. "I guess I will have to do with traditional candles. It will be cozy, but will also feel rather medieval," she laughed.

Several municipalities across the country have also decided against installing electric Christmas decorations in public areas. Seventeen municipalities, including the city of Stockholm, said they would reduce Christmas lighting.

Local media Mitt i has recently reported that the beautiful strings of lights that have since the 1950s illuminated alleys, squares and streets -- a traditional and popular feature of Stockholm's Old Town in winter -- may not be available this year.

"Earlier, local business associations took care of the Christmas lights... and the associations were disbanded. The owners of small, local businesses have neither the time nor the money to arrange Christmas lights," Mitt i reported.

Due to the energy crisis, national grid operator Svenska kraftnat has warned that Swedes might for the first time experience load shedding where electricity to households in certain areas is temporarily cut off to ensure the integrity of the grid and transfer of electricity.

In a drive to save energy, the Swedish Energy Agency has asked citizens to decrease their homes temperatures, take shorter showers, switch off appliances, and run electricity-intensive appliances during off-peak hours.

But under huge financial burden, Swedes, already in September, reduced their household power consumption by 18-percent year-on-year and by 21 percent in the south, where electricity is most expensive, statistics show.

Fueled mainly by the energy crisis, Sweden's CPIF (Consumer Price Index with fixed interest rate) 12-month inflation hit 9.7 percent in September, the highest level in three decades. Prices of necessities, such as electricity, gasoline, water and food, ratcheted up at a pace not seen in the country in decades.

Alongside the ever larger electricity bills, Hogberg's business is also saddled with the soaring costs of day-to-day operation and the rocketing rent, which is set to increase by around 10 percent.

This latter, she said, could be the last straw for her.

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