Sweden’s parties agree on goal to cut peak power consumption

Sweden's Social Democrat caretaker government has agreed with the incoming Moderates on a goal of cutting peak power consumption by 5 percent as part of an EU scheme.

Sweden's parties agree on goal to cut peak power consumption
Energy minister Khashayar Farmanbar speaks to the press at a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels. Photo: Wiktor Nummelin / TT

Now the election is over, both parties seem willing to consider ways to encourage citizens to reduce power use, an obvious measure to reduce winter power prices that was conspicuously absent from the campaign. 

At the same time, the Moderates are downplaying their election campaign pledge to bring in “high-cost protection” to reimburse citizens for much of the impact of high power costs by the start of November. 

At a meeting of the parliament’s Committee on Industry and Trade, the two parties agreed that both the caretaker Social Democrat government and the incoming Moderate-led government should take action to cut power consumption by between 5 percent and 10 percent. 

“If we succeed in carrying this out on a coordinated EU level, we will be on the way to at the very least halving electricity prices,” Energy minister Khashayar Farmanbar told Sweden’s TT newswire. 

“We stand behind the ambition to reduce consumption,” agreed Carl-Oskar Bohlin, the Moderate Party’s power spokesperson, after a meeting of the committee on Wednesday. 

But he said that meeting the goal would be very much dependent on outside factors, particularly how cold the winter is in Sweden. 

“Then there are questions of how that should happen practically in real terms,” he said. “In Sweden, electricity use is largely dependent on the outside temperature. If we have a mild winter, it will be extremely easy to hit the 5 percent target, if we have a really harsh winter, it might be impossible.”

The Moderates are agreed that the public sector should reduce “unnecessary power consumption”, but have yet to agree on measures that households should take, such as reducing indoor temperatures or turning off the lights. 

At the same time, Bohlin admitted on Wednesday that the high-cost protection that Ulf Kristersson pledged in the campaign by November 1st, may be delayed by the government negotiations. 

“We promised high-cost protection from November 1st, on the condition that a new government was in place rapidly,” he told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper. “The problem is that Svenska kraftnät [the company that owns and operates Sweden’s power grid], is working to another schedule, one given by the current government.” 

The outgoing Social Democrat government has given Svenska kraftnät until November 15th to propose a system for high-cost protection. The cash paid back to households and businesses would be taken from the bottle-neck income which the grid operator receives as a result of capacity shortages in the network. 

The outgoing Social Democrats have also changed their rhetoric since the end of the campaign .

On September 9th, two days before the election took place, the Social Democrat government framed a meeting of EU ministers on September 9th as a “breakthrough” in the EU negotiations. 

Farmanbar is now describing it as “a process”. 

“What we can promise right now is that we’re going to work as hard as we can to get a breakthrough,” he said. 

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How does Sweden’s government want you to save energy?

In a new campaign launched by Sweden's Energy Agency, people living in Sweden are being encouraged to cut down on hot water and electricity.

How does Sweden's government want you to save energy?

“Our ambition is to reach a broad audience,” Energy Agency department head Gustav Ebenå said. “To households at first, we’re aiming this to a lesser extent at businesses, even though the advice and tips are applicable in an office environment, for example”.

Those living in Sweden will see the new campaign popping up on public transport, on radio and TV ads, as well as on social media in the coming weeks.

Under headlines like “Turn down the temperature indoors. Now we’re helping each other to save electricity,” and “Think about what you’re using electricity for. Every saved kilowatt hour makes a difference,” Swedish households are encouraged to do their part to lower their energy consumption and avoid an energy crisis.

“Our motto is that every kilowatt hour counts,” Ebenå said. “Every contribution makes a difference and the sum of every small effort will be a significant impact.”

The campaign follows last week’s crisis package from the EU where politicians agreed that energy usage should be lowered in all countries by five percent during the most critical hours of the day.

Sweden is not the only country to introduce a campaign to encourage residents to save electricity. Finland recently launched a campaign to encourage residents to cut down on time spent in the sauna, Spain is encouraging residents to turn down their air conditioning and French authorities have decided to close swimming pools.

Depending on how the situation – and the winter – develops, the Energy Agency have not ruled out the possibility of using a sharper tone.

“It may be the case that we have to adopt a sharper tone and go harder, and be more blunt with our message,” Ebenå said, “but with a bit of luck, this will go a long way”.

The hope is that the campaign will lead to Sweden’s energy usage decreasing by a few percent, at least, so that planned power cuts won’t be necessary this winter.

“If this means that we can get the 5-10 percent usage which means we don’t need to carry out planned cuts, that would be great,” Ebenå said.