Closing churches and switching off saunas: How Sweden is saving energy

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.

Closing churches and switching off saunas: How Sweden is saving energy
An electric sauna. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

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.

Member comments

  1. 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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Sweden detects fourth leak at Nord Stream pipelines in Baltic Sea

A fourth leak has been detected in undersea pipelines running from Russia to Europe, the Swedish Coast Guard said Thursday, after pipeline explosions earlier this week in the Danish and Swedish economic zones, in suspected sabotage.

Sweden detects fourth leak at Nord Stream pipelines in Baltic Sea

“There are two leaks on the Swedish side and two leaks on the Danish side,” a Swedish Coast Guard official said, after three leaks were confirmed earlier this week on the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

The official added that the two leaks on the Swedish side are “close to each other”.

The Swedish coast guard could not immediately say why the latest leak only appeared days after the initial breaches. 

Media reported that the latest leak was detected at the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but the coast guard did not confirm this. 

Sweden had previously reported a leak on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline northeast of Bornholm, while Denmark has confirmed a leak on Nord Stream 2 to the southeast of the island, and another to the northeast above Nord Stream 1.

The vast leaks cause significant bubbling at the surface of the sea several hundred metres wide, making it impossible to immediately inspect the structures. 

Suspicions of sabotage emerged after the leaks were detected. Moscow denied it was behind the explosions, as did the United States, saying Moscow’s suggestion it would damage the pipeline was “ridiculous”. 

The UN Security Council will meet Friday to discuss the incident.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which link Russia to Germany, have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions in recent months as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

While the pipelines — operated by a consortium majority-owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom — are not currently in operation, they both still contained gas.

On Thursday, NATO declared that the damage was “the result of deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage”.

“These leaks are causing risks to shipping and substantial environmental damage,” the Western military alliance said in a statement.

Danish officials said on Wednesday – prior to the discovery of the fourth leak – that more than half of the gas in the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea had leaked into the atmosphere after they were damaged.

“A clear majority of the gas has already come out of the pipes,” the head of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer Böttzauw, told a press conference.

“We expect the rest to escape by Sunday,” he added.

Defence Minister Morten Bødskov said Wednesday morning that, due to pressure of the gas leaking out, it would take “one or two weeks” before inspections of the damaged structures could begin.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said at a symposium in Paris that to him it was “very obvious” who was behind the leaks.

He said natural gas shortages in the wake of the war in Ukraine could make for a tough winter in Europe.

“In the absence of a major negative surprise, I think Europe, in terms of natural gas, can survive this winter with a lot of bruises in our bodies in terms of prices, economy and social issues, but we can go through that,” Birol said.