Current affairs

Observant readers may have noticed that The Local wasn't working for four hours last Friday afternoon. Thankfully it was somebody else's fault and the cost, to be frank, was measurable in frowns rather than crowns.

But that wasn’t the case at another great British institution, Debenhams, which lost hundreds of thousands of the latter thanks to a three-hour electrical failure in the centre of Stockholm.

SvD reported that staff stood outside the store on Drottninggatan handing out information to disappointed shoppers, inviting them to come back another day. Chief Executive Åke Hellqvist wasn’t so optimistic, though.

“This was one of the busiest days of the year, and in the retail game lost income is lost income,” he fumed. “I’m ready for a fight with the property company and the electricity company. Someone’s going to hang for this.”

Steady on, Åke.

In fact, Debenhams was just one of many large companies affected by the failure. The manager of a Hennes & Mauritz store which was forced to close simply pointed customers to the dozen or so H&M shops a handbag’s throw away, while Camilla Gustaffson at Intersport was left ruing her bad timing.

“We’ve lost a lot of money because of this,” she told SvD. “Especially since we had big ads in the press today.”

In Svenska Dagbladet’s second article on the incident, it became clear that the paper itself had been affected by the outage:

“Meanwhile, our reporters sat in the darkness, tearing out their hair and hoping they would have time to write tomorrow morning’s copy before their computer’s batteries ran out. A three-hour electrical failure seems much longer when there’s a deadline looming.”

But “everyone pulled together” and editor Lena Samuelsson was proud of her troops.

“We don’t think the outage will be noticeable to our readers,” she said.

Not unless they read the two articles on the subject.

Journalists with fading laptops may grumble but commuters in the west of Sweden had it far worse when another – unrelated – electrical failure brought four local trains and an intercity express to a standstill on Friday evening.

600 passengers were stuck between Kungsbacka and Halmstad for over two hours while the train company SJ tried to find some buses to take them back to civilisation.

Luckily, Aftonbladet had a “source” on the train, Jenny Ekekrantz, who was able to give a minute-by-minute account of the incident.

“There’s a bit of irritation in the air,” she reported. “Many people haven’t eaten for a while and there’s no restaurant on the train. There are better places to be on a Friday evening.”


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.