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ENERGY

Church in Norway forced to close due to energy prices 

A church in eastern Norway has closed its doors to worshippers until the spring due to high electricity prices, with more saying they may have to follow suit. 

Churches in Norway are struggling with surging electricity costs. Pictured is a traditional stave church.
Churches in Norway are struggling with surging electricity costs. Pictured is a traditional stave church.Photo by Stephen Roth on Unsplash

Rjukan Church in Tinn, eastern Norway, has shut up shop except for advent until the spring due to soaring electricity prices, local paper Rjukan Arbeidblad reported this week.

“We are doing it to save electricity. Rjukan Church is made of stone and concrete and is expensive to heat. Electricity has become far more expensive, and we have already used up the electricity budget for 2021,” Susann Myhra Stryvold, guardian for the church, told the newspaper. 

High electricity prices pose a problem to congregations throughout eastern Norway, and several churches told broadcaster NRK they are struggling to keep the lights on. 

“We have already spent 200,000-300,000 kroner more on electricity than last year,” Kjetil Gjerde, trustee of a church in Ringerike, told the public broadcaster

“With today’s electricity prices, we will go 120,000 kroner over our budget this year,” Sigrid Kobro Strensrød, a churchwarden in Larvik, said to NRK. 

READ ALSO: What times of day should you avoid using electricity in Norway? 

It’s a similar story in the capital, Oslo. 

“We do not have the budget to pay current electricity prices. This is a serious situation,” Finn Folke Thorp, communications manager for Oslo’s joint church council said. 

Churches, particularly old stone ones, use massive amount of electricity to heat.

“Large stone churches are expensive to heat, so we have moved some events to other churches and premises,” Gjerde, trustee for a church in Ringerike, explained. 

Thorp says that the closure of some churches in Oslo is being considered should the high prices endure. 

“A radical move we can take is to close some of the churches, but the final decision lies with the churches,” Thorp, who manages communications for Oslo’s church council, said. 

READ ALSO: What are the knock-on effects of rising energy prices in Norway? 

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ENERGY

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

Sweden's government has proposed a new law which will remove local municipalities' power to block wind parks in the final stages of the planning process, as part of a four-point plan to speed up the expansion of wind power.

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

“We are doing this to meet the increased need for electricity which is going to come as a result of our green industrial revolution,” Strandhäll said at a press conference. 

“It is important to strengthen Sweden by rapidly breaking our dependence on fossil fuels, building out our energy production and restructuring our industry. The Swedish people should not be dependent on countries like Russia to drive their cars or warm their homes.”

“We are going to make sure that municipalities who say “yes” to wind power get increased benefits,” she added in a press statement. “In addition, we are going to increase the speed with which wind power is built far offshore, which can generally neither be seen or heard from land.” 

While municipalities will retain a veto over wind power projects on their territory under the proposed new law, they will have to take their decision earlier in the planning process to prevent wind power developers wasting time and effort obtaining approvals only for the local government to block projects at the final stags. 

“For the local area, it’s mostly about making sure that those who feel that new wind parks noticeably affect their living environment also feel that they see positive impacts on their surroundings as a result of their establishment,” Strandhäll said.  “That might be a new sports field, an improved community hall, or other measures that might make live easier and better in places where wind power is established.” 

According to a report from the Swedish Energy Agency, about half of the wind projects planned since 2014 have managed to get approval. But in recent years opposition has been growing, with the opposition Moderate, Swedish Democrats, and Christian Democrat parties increasingly opposing projects at a municipal level. 

Municipalities frequently block wind park projects right at the end of the planning process following grassroots local campaigns. 

The government a month ago sent a committee report, or remiss, to the Council on Legislation, asking them to develop a law which will limit municipal vetoes to the early stages of the planning process. 

At the same time, the government is launching two inquiries. 

The first will look into what incentives could be given to municipalities to encourage them to allow wind farms on their land, which will deliver its recommendations at the end of March next year. In March, Strandhäll said that municipalities which approve wind farm projects should be given economic incentives to encourage them to accept projects on their land. 

The second will look into how to give the government more power over the approvals process for wind projects under Sweden’s environmental code. This will deliver its recommendations at the end of June next year. 

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