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utility rates

Sweden divided into four energy zones

With winter rapidly approaching, Swedes are facing yet another inconvenience concerning energy consumption - the dividing of the country into different energy areas with different price ranges.

As of today, Sweden is divided into four different electric power zones. This decision by the state-run power management agency, called the National Grid, will lead to varying utility rates throughout the country. Consumers in the south of Sweden will have to pay higher prices, as there is a higher demand in this densely populated area than up north. While other parts of the country can rely on hydroelectricity generated by plants along the mighty Swedish rivers as well as on three nuclear power plants, the south has to cope with shortcomings. The atomic power plant Barsebäck outside of Malmö with its two reactors was closed down years ago, partly due to protests from neighboring Denmark, where Barsebäck with its closeness to Copenhagen was seen as a security risk.  

Along the flat surface of the Skåne province thousands of wind turbines are generating electricity, but this alternative energy source so far is nothing but a drop in the proverbial bucket. Instead, the south of Sweden has been relying on importing electricity from Germany. But there is another setback. Since Germany has decided to abolish its nuclear power plants, power will not flow as freely as before.  

Lars Lagerkvist is the director of the sales division of energy giant EON. On Swedish Radio he commented on the change in German energy policy:

‘This means that they won’t have the same capacities to export power to the Nordic countries in case it gets very cold here. And that will lead to even higher utility costs.’

And there is even a possibility of a total stop of energy export from Germany. Matthias Kurth of the German Power Net Agency told Swedish Radio:

‘I couldn’t rule that out completely. It might be the case but they haven’t popped up right now. We are closely monitoring it, we will watch it, and we will try to avoid it as much as possible.’

Matthias Kurth calls the current development a necessary phase of transition and he describes the goals for the future:  

‘The plan is to substitute the nuclear power plants with conventional energy plants. We have about ten Gigawatt coal fire plants which are under construction already, and on top of that there will be more installed renewable energy.’

This confirms the scenario described by EON’s Lars Lagervist, namely that at least temporarily there will be significant cutbacks in purchasing energy from Germany.

So I asked Anders Wallinder what all this means for the Swedish consumers. Let’s take an everyday example: What will be the difference in the cost of lighting a lamp for an hour or frying an egg in Malmö or in Kiruna? Will it be twice the price for the people in the south? His answer: Consumers in the south will pay five percent more than their northern neighbors. 

But even if the Swedes up north will pay a little less for electricity from now on, there is no cause to be jealous. To drive to the grocery store where they buy their eggs, northern inhabitants have to bridge much larger distances than their fellow citizens in the south, and that means more money for gas – a lot more.

Klaus Heilbronner 

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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