Power Cuts This Winter 'Not At All Unthinkable', Swedes Warned; Urged to ‘Prepare for Worst’
In dire warnings from two cabinet ministers as a nation that used to be a net power exporter spirals into an ever-worsening energy crisis, Swedes were encouraged to step up their preparedness, save electricity, collect water in tubs and limit the number of rooms they live in.
Amid a “highly uncertain” situation for Sweden’s energy supply, the nation’s Energy Minister Ebba Busch has warned her fellow Swedes that power cuts are “not at all unthinkable” this winter and called on Swedish households to review their crisis preparedness.
“January and February are challenging. We know that winter is always hard. Now we also have a situation with a risk of real interruption, combined with high electricity prices,” Busch said, as quoted by Swedish media.
The Christian Democrat minister even told her fellow Swedes to “be prepared for the worst”, citing “a crisis situation in which great uncertainty prevails”. This includes having a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, bottles of water and non-perishable food at home.
This message was echoed by Civil Defense Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin, who also called on Swedes to step up preparedness.
“This is not an attempt to sound alarmist. We are taking all the measures we can to ensure that it doesn’t end up like this. But it is very difficult to prepare afterwards,” Bohlin said.
The ministers emphasized that the outages may last no longer than a couple of hours, but warned that longer ones cannot be ruled out. At the same time, Bohlin said that in the worst case scenario, the authorities wouldn't know when the power would be cut, nor when it would be restored. For his part, Bohlin advised fellow Swedes to collect water in tubs or buckets, limit the number of rooms they live in, and generally conserve electricity.
21 December 2022, 10:22 GMT
The dire warning came after Sweden's largest reactor at the Oskarshamn nuclear plant has been out of service for 10 days because of maintenance work. At the time, the government said it was worried about output and was already asking the population to save electricity. However, the message from the nation’s power operator Svenska Kraftnat was that there was no reason to expect blackouts any time soon.
Busch pledged to gather all available power, save up and “flatten the curve”, a phrase heavy with COVID-19 resonance and the rigorous yet haphazard response of various governments. Electricity support to companies and households in northern Sweden has also been promised shortly.
The warnings caused shockwaves in neighboring Denmark, which is acutely sensitive to Swedish electricity prices, as the two nations’ grids are closely interconnected. In Denmark, the previous government already warned of power cuts in case of a very cold winter. To tackle the possible outages, heating in public buildings has been turned down and the heating season has been shortened.
In 2022, both Sweden and Denmark were badly affected by Europe’s expanding energy crisis stemming from western sanctions against Russia designed as a “penalty” for its special operation in Ukraine. This has happened despite Sweden having long been a net electricity exporter and Denmark being Europe’s poster child for “green” energy because of its reliance on wind power. Both nations saw a massive rise in consumer electricity prices.