Minister: turn off lights to save on electricity bills

Sweden’s energy minister responded to concerns about sky-high electricity bills by advising homeowners to turn off their lights and install new windows, prompting a homeowners group to call the advice “a provocation”.

Minister: turn off lights to save on electricity bills
Maud Olofsson & Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen, December

Enterprise and energy minister Maud Olofsson called on Swedish residents to further insulate their homes, install triple-glazed windows and replace incandescent bulbs to combat skyrocketing electricity bills.

She also urged electricity customers to unplug electrical appliances to keep them from running in standby mode.

“In the short term, it is the only thing one can do to try to keep one’s electricity consumption down,” Olofsson said on Thursday after a meeting with the director of the Energy Markets Inspectorate (Energimarknadsinspektionen, EI).

“But I understand customer concerns. I also have loved ones who complain about this,” she added.

Despite her expression of sympathy, Olofsson’s proposed solution to high electricity costs wasn’t welcomed in all quarters.

“I think that very many people view this advice as a provocation,” Joacim Olsson of the Swedish Homeowners Association (Villaägarnas riksförbund) told the TT news agency.

Olofsson fortified the insulation in her home in Högfors, a community of seven inhabitants in Västerbotten in northeastern Sweden 50 kilometres northeast of Umeå, back in the 1970s during the oil crisis.

According to Olofsson, improved wind insulation for a house can save 3,300 kronor ($512) a year, while installing triple-glazed windows saves about 2,000 kronor per year.

But Olsson from the Homeowners Association is convinced that most homeowners have already implemented many of the energy saving measures proposed by Olofsson as ways to lower households’ electricity costs.

“And even so it’s hard for a lot of families to pay their electricity bills. It’s not enough to urge people implement such measures. As the responsible minister, Maud Olofsson needs to do something so that this doesn’t turn into a major problem for people’s welfare,” said Olsson.

Olofsson vowed to continue to work toward a better functioning in Sweden.

“I am doing everything I can to improve this market,” said Olofsson.

In the long run, the work will hopefully lead to a smarter power supply system and more timers in homes, as well as considerably more renewable energy and an integrated market in the Nordic countries, she said.

However, all this cannot be accomplished overnight, according to Olofsson. She hopes to be able to share more about how to strengthen confidence in the electricity market in the spring. A good chunk of energy bills also go to energy taxes and VAT.

“In this area, there are no discussions at the moment. However, I am prepared to look at all measures that will make it easier for customers,” she said.

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