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Northern town remains in darkness

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14:32 CET+01:00
Residents of a northern Swedish town will have to stock up on candles after the Swedish Market Court ruled in favour of an energy company that has kept the streetlights switched off for over a year.

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

Övertorneå and Haparanda councils had called for the court to fine Ekfors Kraft four million kronor for every week the lights remained off. Instead the councils were ordered on Thursday to jointly pay for the company's court costs, which amounted to some 500,000 kronor ($78,000).

"I am naturally somewhat disappointed by the verdict but otherwise I don't have any comments," said Övertorneå councillor Arne Honkamaa.

Övertorneå council recently took a decision to invest in the construction of its own power grid, with work set to begin next summer.

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

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

Consequently, the two councils refused 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.

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