Winter chill causes home heating headache

The cold winter in Sweden has left every fifth household struggling to pay their electricity bills, according to a new survey published in the Dagens Industri daily.

Worst hit are those living in houses after spot prices, excluding taxes and utility margins, shot up from 0.37 kronor ($0.05) to 0.93 kronor per kilowatt hour from November to February as a result of the harsh winter and spiralling demand.

With all additions and taxes included, electricity prices peaked at 1.65 kronor per kilowatt hour.

Households with flexible price deals and electric heating have been left to foot bills several thousand kronor higher than normal.

Swedish bank SEB commissioned Demoskop to conduct a survey of households in April to find out if the high electricity prices had caused payment problems. One fifth replied that the high bills were a very significant problem, or quite a significant problem, the newspaper reports.

“It is worrying that so many households are affected. Home owners have benefited from the low mortgage interest rates, so there should be a sufficient margin to meet heating costs,” said Gunilla Nyström at SEB to the newspaper.

Electricity spot prices have now dropped back after the winter highs to around 0.45 kronor per kilowatt hour, which in effect means a total price to the consumer of around 1.18 kronor.

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Sweden to double wind energy production in next four years

Wind energy is set to double its share of Sweden's power supply over the next four years as a string of giant projects come online.

Sweden to double wind energy production in next four years
The Gabrielsberget wind project in Västerbotten. Photo: Swewind
The contribution of wind energy is scheduled to grow from 17TWh in 2018 to 35 TWh in 2022, taking wind's share from 12 percent to 25 percent of total power produced. 
Charlotte Unger, chief executive of the Swedish Wind Energy Association trade body said the pro-renewable policy decisions had been driving growth. 
“Sweden has the best regulatory regime for wind power projects from a European perspective, and therefore production costs the least here,” she told Swedish state broadcaster SVT.  “Investors have confidence in wind power in Sweden, and that's because of the policies that exist.” 
The largest new wind farm is the giant Markbyygden project outside Piteå, which is expected to supply 10TWh per year as it comes online in stages from this year, making it one of Europe's largest wind farms.  
Other major projects are the Överturingen wind farm in Västernorrland, Åskälen in Jämtland, and Valhalla in Gävleborg. 
The new farms will make up for the shutdown of two reactors at the Ringhals nuclear power station in 2019 and 2020. 
Because the majority of the new wind power projects are in the northern counties of Norrland, Västerbotten and Jämtland, the shift will require Sweden's state-owned grid operator Svenska Kraftnät to rapidly improve capacity, especially in central Sweden. 
But Niclas Damsgaard, the grid company's senior market strategist, said he believed the company would be able to keep pace with the growth. 
“It's going to work, but all this will mean an increase in risk. In an extreme case, some major industrial consumers may not be able to buy as much power as they want, but it's not going to mean difficulties across the country.”  
Unger said that if the new production exceeded Sweden's own needs, then the excess could be exported into Europe, reducing the continent's coal use. 
Between 2022 and 2040, the Swedish Wind Energy Association hopes to double the amount of wind power produced in  once again, taking it to half of Sweden's total power use.