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ENERGY

EXPLAINED: How to save money on your energy bill in Sweden

Energy prices in parts of Sweden are record-high. So, what can you do on an individual level to lower your energy bills?

a woman reading her energy bill by candlelight
You probably don't need to go to extremes this drastic, but here are a few useful tips to lower your energy bill. Photo: Exponera/Scanpix

Shop around and understand your bill

First of all, if you’ve bought an apartment, or a house that is part of a housing association (bostadsrättsförening or BRF), you should find out which utilities are included in your monthly fee to the BRF (avgift). Ideally you would do this during the property hunt so that you can accurately compare different monthly costs, but if not, find out as soon as possible.

It’s common for heating to be included in the avgift, as well as water (check if that includes hot water too). Electricity is much less commonly included, so it’s likely you’ll need to sign your own contracts.

There are two parts to your electricity service: the grid (elnät) and the supply company (elbolag).

The fee you pay to the grid will consist of two parts: a fixed subscription fee, and an extra amount based on the amount of energy used.

On top of that, you’ll pay a separate fee to a supply company.

When it comes to your supply company, you do have a choice. After signing your nätavtal you need to choose a supply company so that they can deliver electricity directly to your home. If you already have a contract that you’d like to keep, you can contact the supply company to get it transferred to your new address when you move.

Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

If you don’t sign your own elavtal, the grid will choose a company for you automatically. This means you’ll still get electricity, but it’s unlikely to be the best price for you.

To choose your own electricity supplier, you can use comparison tools such as CompricerElbyte or Elskling. You’ll get a more accurate price estimate if you know roughly how much electricity you use per year, for example if you can check on a previous invoice, but otherwise you can give the size of your property and get a rough figure.

When choosing your electricity supplier, you can choose between a fixed price (you’ll pay the same amount per kilowatt-hour each month for a set time, so your fee depends entirely on how much electricity you use) or a variable rate (this means your kilowatt-hour price varies, based on how expensive the electricity is for the supplier which depends on factors like weather and supply and demand, so your overall price will vary more).

However, fixed-price energy contracts are at an all-time high at the moment, with many companies refusing to offer them at all, so you may not have much choice in the matter.

You can also choose a timprisavtal which is a type of variable rate (this means that your price will vary throughout the day), meaning you can save money by planning energy-hungry activities like washing clothes or putting on the dishwasher for times when electricity is less expensive.

Use your appliances efficiently – and choose new appliances carefully

Outdated appliances can make a major difference to your energy bill, so make sure you look around for a more energy-efficient model when upgrading.

When it comes time to replace your washing machine, or invest in a new TV for example, you could make significant savings by picking the right model. More energy-efficient appliances might mean spending more money to begin with, but you could save a substantial amount in the long-run.

An energy-efficient fridge-freezer will consume 125 kWh per year, compared to 245 kWh for a less efficient machine. The savings are even more stark for tumble dryers – 170 kWh instead of 560 kWh.

For most appliances, the energy rating goes from A to G, with A being the most efficient. New European rules introduced on March 1st 2021 got rid of the A+ to A+++ ratings for most types of appliance, meaning the A is much harder to achieve, and most energy-efficient products currently on the market will typically now be labelled as ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘D’.”

Image: European Commission

Additionally, make sure you turn off appliances you’re not using – appliances like your TV, microwave and coffee machine use less electricity on standby than they once did, but turning these machines off completely could still shave money off your bill, before counting heating costs. Using a multi-socket adapter with a switch – or even a timer which switches appliances off while you’re at work or asleep – will make it easier to get into the habit of turning off several appliances at once. 

Understand how you can claim money back – and what counts

If you’re buying an appliance for your apartment or house which wasn’t there when you originally moved in, such as a dishwasher or washing machine, you can claim the full cost of the appliance and installation back from the Tax Agency as “improvement costs” or avdrag för renoveringar och nybyggnad when you sell your property – just make sure you keep your receipts safe so you can document the purchase when the time comes. 

This is particularly useful if you’re considering buying a dishwasher. Dishwashers are much more energy-efficient than washing up by hand, especially if you usually leave the tap running as you wash the dishes. Just make sure you wait until your dishwasher is full – a half-full dishwasher uses almost the same amount of energy as a full one.

Have you been thinking about buying a dishwasher? You might be able to claim the cost of it back once you sell your property. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Similarly, you can claim part of the renovation costs back from the Tax Agency when you sell your home, if you have improved the property’s standard.

For example, if you bought a house with an old oil boiler, which you then replace with a modern, energy-efficient heat pump, you can claim part of these costs back from the Tax Agency when you sell the house, as your changes have added value to the property.

By doing this, you can save money on both your electricity bill and claim back part of the cost of installation.

However, it is important to note that this does not apply if you swap out an old, inefficient appliance for a newer one with the same functions. This means that if you buy a standard fridge/freezer to replace an older fridge/freezer with the same functions, you can’t claim the cost back, even if the new appliance is more energy-efficient. The Tax Agency explains it in the following way: “Materials or products where the standard is only improved due to improvements in technology are not included in this category.”

Make friends with your thermostat

Although it might not seem particularly relevant at this time of year, it’s important to be aware of how your heating works if you want to save money in the winter months.

Your thermostat regulates the heat in your home. If you have radiators, each radiator will most likely have an individual thermostat, but this depends on the age of your building as well as whether you live in a house or an apartment. If you have underfloor heating, for example, you are likely to have a thermostat on the wall instead.

Firstly, give your thermostat time to heat up after turning it on before you come back to increase the temperature. It may be tempting to come back after a few minutes and turn it up to max because the room still feels cold, but it takes time to warm up all the cold air in a room – you may need to wait a couple of hours for the room to warm up.

Some housing associations may even have rules on the maximum temperature your thermostat can be set at – usually around 21C – meaning that you might just have to get used to it if this is too cold for you.

You can also try lowering your thermostat by just one degree and see if the temperature is still comfortable. According to Energirådgivningen Stockholm – a company financed by the Swedish Energy Agency to provide energy-saving advice in the Stockholm region – a decrease of just one degree in your home’s temperature can lower your energy use by around 5 percent.

Learn how your thermostat works – and use it effectively to save money and energy. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
 
Additionally, try not to have your windows open when your heating is switched on. If you want to air out your home, open the windows wide for a few minutes rather than having them slightly open for hours. This means that your heating system will not have to work as hard to keep your house warm, saving you money.

Similarly, don’t block your radiators with curtains or furniture. This will stop the warm air generated by the radiator from circulating around the room effectively, meaning you will need to use more energy to heat your home.

Make sure you check your windows and doors for draughts, too. Cold air coming in means that warm air which you have paid to heat is leaking out, so check the seals on your doors and windows and change them if they’re old and dried out – if you live in a bostadsrättsförening, then you may need to contact your housing association’s janitor or vicevärd to sort this out for you.

This might be an obvious suggestion, but try putting on warm socks and slippers before resorting to turning the heating up. Swedish homes are usually well-insulated, but they are unlikely to have wall-to-wall carpets, meaning that you probably have wooden or linoleum floors in your house or apartment. This can feel colder on your feet, meaning that you may feel as if you need to turn the heating up.

Member comments

  1. My December bill just came in… Bearing in mind my energy use is only 100kw higher than last December, my bill has gone from 2500:- to a whopping 10,000:-!!! No idea how in the hell I’m going to pay this.

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For members

FARMING

How the war in Ukraine affects Swedish food production

Global inflation, soaring energy prices and shattered supply chains following the coronavirus pandemic led to an increase in food costs. And now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is compounding supply and demand pressure. How is this affecting Swedish food production?

How the war in Ukraine affects Swedish food production

Should consumers expect higher food prices to continue in 2022?

Yes – even goods that are abundant in Sweden will be affected by increased world market prices. 

Climate change, the pandemic, and subsequent supply chain issues have all significantly increased world food prices in the last few years. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has and will continue to boost food prices. 

According to Statistics Sweden, we are experiencing the highest inflation rate since 1991, with the food industry taking a major hit. Fuel and electricity sectors, which are significantly linked to agriculture, are seeing increasing price hikes. 

Swedish grocery comparison company Matpriskollen predicts prices to rise by another 12 percent throughout 2022.

A weak Swedish krona has also dented the economic outlook. 

How is the food sector affected by the war?

Ultimately, the agricultural industry is affected by increasing energy prices and the availability of oil and gas, which in turn sets the pricing of most food and related raw material. Electricity, packaging, and transport costs will continue to rise in current circumstances. 

Complications are caused by global trade sanctions (Belarus and Russia), flight bans, and transport chaos – in many cases cargo containers, ships, and trucks carrying necessary materials have ended up blocked or diverted.  

Financial stability was strained before the war broke out and now the costs of raw materials are being propelled to levels not seen since the global financial crisis of 2008.

Swedish farmers face pressure due to rising fuel prices, scarcity of agricultural machinery and parts, and a decline in fertiliser availability.

Will there be a food shortage in Sweden?

Not in the foreseeable future.

With Ukraine a significant global grain exporter, the war has raised worries about shortages but a recent study from the Lund University School of Economics showed how the war may affect trade, prices, and global agricultural production, but came to the conclusion that although food prices might increase, there won’t be a shortage.

The Swedish National Food Administration (Livsmedelsverket) has also assessed that there remains no general risk of a food shortage in Sweden. So far food production has carried on as usual without any major hindrance.

At the moment, raw materials and ingredients such as sunflower oil, which is more difficult to obtain, are being substituted with, for instance, rapeseed oil, which is abundant in Sweden.

Livsmedelverket said that in the long term there won’t be a food scarcity as a result of the war, but the food sector will be affected by increased costs due to disruptions in deliveries, delayed production or producers going bankrupt – therefore there will be a moderate to a significant impact on food costs in the future.

What roles do gas and fertiliser play in rising food costs?

Swedish fertiliser production ceased in the early 2000s and Russia and Ukraine are significant exporters of agricultural fertilisers and natural gas (a key ingredient in processing fertilisers). Global fertiliser prices have risen 30 percent since the start of this year, following last year’s 80 percent surge – putting Sweden’s stock for 2023 in a precarious position.

Swedish farmers are dependent on fertiliser in order to cultivate crops and maintain food production. Sweden has been importing 15 – 20 percent of the annual demand from Russia, to a value of approximately SEK 3 billion. In the international market, Russia is a major producer together with, among others, Finland, Norway, and Canada. 

As gas is the most common and cheapest energy source in fertiliser production, the impact of Russia’s role as an exporter points to a situation where gas prices, which skyrocketed even before the invasion began, will make agricultural production extortionate.  Due to high prices, farmers’ fertiliser purchases had already fallen by 10 to 15 percent in 2022, which in turn will yield smaller crops in the coming year. 

What happens if Russia shuts down gas exports to Europe?

Russia’s main gas pipeline to Germany was shut down on Monday for supposed maintenance, there are concerns that the supply may not resume once repairs are finished, potentially causing shock waves to Europe’s largest economy. On the same day, there was a decrease in the amount of gas flowing from Russia to Italy, wrote FT.

In an emergency, governments would have to make sacrifices, turning off high gas-consuming businesses – chemical, paper, concrete, and metal manufacturers, for instance – to protect homes, hospitals and food stores.

Rationing would be detrimental to a European economy already suffering from the effects of the war, inflation, and high energy costs. Though presently, no state of emergency has been declared by the Swedish government.

Uncertain, perhaps tough years may be ahead but Sweden continues to use a growing percentage of renewable energy using wind, hydro, and bioengineering, currently leading the European Union in the percentage of energy produced from renewable sources, at around 60 percent, with the target of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2040. 

A little further out, the Swedish agricultural cooperative Lantmännen is working with Yara, the Norwegian fertiliser company, to test green fertilizers, using ammonia made from green hydrogen produced with renewable electricity. The first green fertilizers will be marketed by Lantmännen in Sweden in 2023. 

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