Dark days ahead for northern town

The town of Övertorneå is facing a second winter of unrelenting darkness after a court rejected pleas from two local councils to have their streetlights turned back on.

Roadside lighting in Övertorneå and parts of Haparanda was cut off by Ekfors Kraft last autumn following a dispute over price rises.

Övertorneå and Haparanda councils had called for the Swedish Market Court to force energy provider Ekfors Kraft to switch the lights back on ahead of next month’s final verdict.

“We were hoping for an interim decision but now we will have to wait for the verdict in November,” said Haparanda councillor Sven-Erik Bucht.

The long-running dispute has left 5,000 people without streetlights in an area with very few hours of winter daylight.

Övertorneå and Haparanda claim that Ekfors has abused its monopoly position by charging 60 percent more for street lighting than other energy providers in the Norrbotten region.

As a result, the two councils began refusing to pay in full the bills they received from the energy company. In the period 2002 to 2004, for example, Övertorneå council paid 2.9 million kronor for services valued by Ekfors at 5.2 million kronor ($800,000).

In August 2006, Ekfors decided it had seen enough and took the decision to switch off the lights.