Switching off saunas and lights at landmarks: How Sweden is saving energy

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Switching off saunas and lights at landmarks: How Sweden is saving energy
Swedish and Danish colours on the Öresund Bridge in 2020. Photo: Allan Toft/Øresundsbron

A nationwide effort to save electricity is underway as Sweden faces sky-high energy prices this winter. From closed churches to switched-off saunas, here's how Sweden is reacting ahead of winter.


Switching off the lights at landmarks

The lights that transform Malmö’s Turning Torso skyscraper into a beacon at night are to be extinguished, after the building’s owner, the property giant HSB, decided this would help save energy over the coming winter.

The apartment building is the second tallest tower in Scandinavia after Gothenburg’s Karlatornet, and at night it can normally be seen lighting up the night sky from more than 30km outside the city.

The Öresund bridge linking Malmö in southern Sweden with Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, is also turning off its decorative lights at night - the pylons will only be lit during Advent, and on holidays such as Christmas and New Years. The lights on the motorway running over the bridge will also be switched off early each morning between 1am and 5am.


The company in charge of the bridge calculate that this will save around 9 megawatt hours per month during the winter season. Lights in the tunnels and other essential lighting for sea and air travel will still be in use.

"We want to show that we're doing our part in a situation where everyone is doing their bit to save energy," said Bengt Hergart, facilities director of the bridge.

"At the same time, we want to continue to spread light and Christmas cheer in a dark time."

The bridge's blue and yellow Ukraine lighting will be lit every Sunday between 6pm and 10pm until the first light of Advent is lit.

Closed churches

Churches in many areas of Sweden will be closing or turning off the heating this winter, in an aim to lower energy costs.

In Getinge-Oskarströms parish in Halland, three of the parish's seven churches are closing, dropping their temperatures to 11 degrees over the winter, P4 Radio Halland reports.

The churches which are going to remain open over the winter season will also be turning down the temperature to 18 degrees, in order to help the parish's finances throughout the season.

"It's about keeping our budget in balance," vicar Joachim Franzén told the radio. "And obviously also about showing solidarity with the rest of society."

Andreas Månsson, engineer of Lund diocese, expects that 150 of the diocese's 540 churches could either fully or partially close this winter to conserve energy.

"There's no doubt that heating is the greatest expense," he told newspaper Dagens Nyheter. "Lots of the buildings have quite bad insulation. Lund diocese has invested a lot in making the buildings more efficient, but we're still talking about large buildings with a large volume that swallows up heating."


Markus Dahlberg, head of the cultural heritage support unit at the national office of the Church of Sweden, told the newspaper that these kind of measures are being discussed in many areas in Sweden, but especially in the south where energy prices are highest.

"Many churches are in rural towns," he told DN. "In congregations with lots of buildings and a low base in terms of membership fees, the responsibility for taking care of church buildings becomes a greater burden."

Lowered temperature in swimming pools and turning off saunas

In Malmö, the city council is considering lowering the temperature in the city's indoor and outdoor swimming pools, the city's mayor, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, told public broadcaster SR.

"We have very energy-intensive leisure centres with saunas, with heated swimming pools for example, that's the kind of thing we're looking at to see if we need to close down temporarily or turn down," she said.

The city's director of recreational facilities, Johan Hermansson, told Sydsvenskan newspaper that his department is investigating the possibility of lowering water temperature levels, as well as energy saving measures to do with indoor temperatures, ice rinks, lighting and saunas.

"We're not currently planning on lowering the temperature in the pools," he said, "but we are looking at whether we can do something with the relaxation areas at the swimming pool in Hyllie and the saunas we have in our facilities".

It's not just public buildings who are closing their sauna facilities - gym chain Sats has decided to close their sauna facilities in multiple gyms, P4 Radio Gothenburg reports, blaming the decision on high energy prices.

Some bostadsrättsföreningar or housing associations have also taken the decision to close sauna facilities - the board of The Local reporter Becky Waterton's housing association in Skåne recently put a note up in their stairwell stating that the associations' saunas will be closed until April 2023.

Authorities also have a role to play

Government authorities have also been told to enact energy-saving measures, energy minister Khashayar Farmanbar and public administration minister Ida Karkiainen from the outgoing Social Democrat government said in a press conference before September's election.

Almost 200 municipalities have been tasked by the government to lower their energy use before winter.


"It's important that all of society contribute towards lowering energy usage," Farmanbar said. "State authorities and the public sector can and should lead the way on this."

Some proposed measures included changing lightbulbs and fittings or using more energy-effective technology, as well as controlling lighting and ventilation so they're only in use when they have to be, and not at night, for example.

"All measures won't suit everyone, but everyone can do something," Farmanbar said.


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juancameijeiras 2022/09/22 09:46
Also, public transport should have a roll, I have ridden in buses lately that have the heating already on at full blast when the temperature was 12 degrees, this wastes a lot of fuel/electricity. Also, electric buses accelerate and decelerate very quickly, spending more power and also wearing more mechanically, the acceleration should be limited to what a regular engine bus can do, also for the comfort of the passengers (we don't care how fast the bus can accelerate).

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