Swedish government forced to redo power subsidy plan for businesses

Sweden's government has scrapped its ill-fated proposal to reimburse companies for last year's sky-high power prices because it broke EU rules, forcing it to order the grid authority to draw up an alternative.

Swedish government forced to redo power subsidy plan for businesses
Sweden's business and energy minister Ebba Busch holds a press conference announcing the failure of the government's first proposal to reimburse businesses. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

At a press conference on Thursday, Sweden’s business and energy minister Ebba Busch said that the a proposal from the country’s grid operator Svenska kraftnät to use so-called ‘bottle neck charges’ to fund compensation to businesses had been rejected by the regulator. 

“I understand that this is difficult message to stomach,” Busch said at a press conference. “Sweden cannot move forward with the support which Svenska kraftnät proposed.”

She declined to give any indication of when the payments – which all of the three parties in Sweden’s government had promised in the election would be in place in November – would finally arrive. 

“The government is not responsible for the timing of the process through which the the Swedish Energy Markets Inspectorate makes its decision. As a result it’s hard to put a time on it,” she said. 

In the press conference Busch said it was up to the employees at Svenska Kraftnät to work throughout the festive period to draw up a new proposal which the inspectorate was willing to accept. 

“You need to work over Christmas, over the New Year. By January 4th, a new application must have been delivered to the Energy Markets Inspectorate,” she said. 

Once the inspectorate gives its approval, the government can push forward with a directive to Svenska Kraftnät to arrange the payments. 

The government’s current plans involve two separate payments, one which will go to all businesses and a second targeted at energy intensive businesses. 

The government has sent in an application for state support to the EU for the second scheme, but it is uncertain when the EU will decide on its legality. 

Niels Paarup Petersen, an MP representing Skåne with the Centre Party, accused Busch of “totally failing to deliver” on her promises. 

“So here comes the bloody reality!” he wrote on Twitter. “From high-cost protection by November 1st, to electricity subsidy without high-cost protection before Christmas, to something, sometime, maybe. Ebba Busch has totally failed to deliver.” 

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Sweden’s parliament votes by huge majority in favour of Nato accession

Sweden's parliament has voted to ratify the country's accession to the Nato defence alliance, with its historic bill to end two centuries of non-alignment passing with a margin of 269 to 37.

Sweden’s parliament votes by huge majority in favour of Nato accession

During the six-hour debate over the bill, Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billström, said he was convinced that the country’s membership would be ratified by Turkey and Hungary, the two hold-outs in the 30-member alliance, before the summit due to be held in Vilnius in the second week of July. 

“It is obvious that we are going to be able to be members at Vilnius,” he said during the debate, pointing to the backing of the other 28 member states and strong support from the US. “The strength that we have behind us is so tangible that it’s possible to come to such a judgement.”

If Sweden were not to be a member before the summer, he continued, it would put Nato’s open-door policy, a key part of its framework, in question. 

Only two of the eight parties in the Swedish parliament voted against the bill, the Left Party and the Green Party, with their MPs providing all of the 37 “no” votes. A further 43 MPs were absent. 

“It is problematic to join a military alliance with countries which are not democratic, and where we see daily that democracy is withering,” said Håkan Svenneling, the Left Party’s foreign policy spokesperson. “They are now trying to use our application to silence our voice on democracy and human rights.” 

The two parties were also critical of the fact that Sweden was now joining an alliance backed by nuclear weapons. 

“The Nato nuclear alliance is built on the idea of using nuclear weapons as a method of deterrence,” said the Green Party’s Jacob Risberg. “The Green Party do not believe in that doctrine, but believe quite the contrary, that this could lead to more conflict.” 

The Social Democrat’s foreign policy spokesperson Morgan Johansson said he was confident that Sweden would not be made to host nuclear weapons on its territory, even though its agreement with Nato contains no formal statement ruling this out. 

The government’s Nato proposition states that “there is no reason to have nuclear weapons or permanent bases on Swedish territory in peacetime”. 

“I feel completely confident in the test which has been drawn up. There is nothing at all pushing for Sweden to be forced to host bases or nuclear weapons,” he said.