November 30, 2022

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Big TV 2 survey: Great concern in southern Norway

Big TV 2 survey: Great concern in southern Norway

– This little thing here ensures that the temperature in the office stays at 19 degrees, says Bømlo Mayor Sammy Olsen (Sp) and points to the wall meter.

The former fisherman has been out on a winter night before, and thrives in slightly cooler weather.

– but there are certainly rules for how cool it can be in offices, or classrooms and public assembly halls in municipal buildings. Meyer says you can’t freeze people.

In any case, temperature regulation is a good picture of the new reality that has hit Norwegian municipalities with full force.

A cold office: – It’s cheaper to put on an extra layer of clothing than to raise the temperature again, says Bomlo mayor Sammy Olsson (SP). Photo: Matthias Cleveland / TV2

A demanding situation

The energy crisis and high electricity prices have created an earthquake in the finances of municipalities across southern Norway.

This is particularly the case where the three southern current areas are struggling.

I fear we are facing a dark winter

Mayor Andreas Volsund (H), Municipality of Diem

In a large survey, TV 2 received responses from 77 of them.

As you can see in the first chart, most municipalities represent the high end of the scale. Many find the situation very difficult.

– I think this is a serious problem for AS Norge. We in the municipalities are the ones who run the shop in the rural areas and we have to have electricity to ensure service. Pomlo Mayor Olsen says that the target should be reached based on the budget.

We worry about unintended consequences in our business lives

Director of Urban Environment Leidolf Skjorestad, Municipality of Stavanger

Lowered the temperature

In Pomlo, the annual electricity budget has doubled from NOK 10 to 20 million.

This is despite the fact that the municipality has reduced electricity consumption by fifteen percent.

– It is challenging because now the administration is working on the budget for 2023 and we have to postpone many projects. We can’t just say we don’t need electricity anymore, so now we have to evaluate our pools, for example, Olsen says

According to the mayor, Bømlo municipality could save NOK 33,000 per week by closing these.

Saving focus: Bømlo municipality has set a new course for all new buildings - insulation and energy saving must now be given high priority.  Photo: Matthias Cleveland / TV2

Saving focus: Bømlo municipality has set a new course for all new buildings – insulation and energy saving must now be given high priority. Photo: Matthias Cleveland / TV2

The municipal administration has already introduced several cost-cutting measures.

By reducing the temperature in all public buildings by one degree, the municipality saves almost one million kroner.

In addition, all the lights have been replaced with LEDs, and these are switched off when people are out of the rooms.

A new fire station being built next to town hall will have solar panels on the roof and additional insulation to retain heat.

– All new buildings are now designed with energy savings in mind, says Olson.

Serious savings hunt

And the mayor of Bømlo is not alone in his energy-saving measures.

Worse is the uncertainty of how expensive it will be

Councilor Tore Isaksen, Ringerike Municipality

In TV 2’s survey of 77 municipalities, a majority of 93.5 percent said the same.

– We were spoiled by a cheap product, and now when it becomes expensive, we have to find an alternative that doesn’t cause too much damage, says Bømlo Mayor Sammy Olsen (Sp).

So what can municipalities do?

In the survey, municipalities mention various energy saving measures, some of which are:

Prayers of Municipalities

Many of the municipalities that responded to TV 2’s survey have clear ideas about the time ahead and the crisis they face.

It is important that business does not break its back on energy prices

Municipal Manager Rune Kloster Tvedt, Hå Municipality

The government should bring more funds in the state budget

Councilor Ståle Manneråk Kongsvik, Farsund Municipality

It is very surprising that the government does not provide electricity to municipalities that do not have electricity income

Business Manager for Construction Operations, Hogne Haug, Nordre Follo Municipality

Business needs support

Despite high electricity prices and high charges for businesses, the municipality does not receive many inquiries from struggling residents.

– We can be a reliable bunch in Pomlo and like to manage on our own without shouting too much.

Still, everyone can see that small businesses like convenience stores are struggling.

Thursday TV2 wrote about one of themHis monthly electricity bill increased fivefold from NOK 29,000 to NOK 150,000.

WARM AND DARK: On Thursday, TV 2 wrote about the convenience store in Gunn Olsson and Pomlo, which was badly affected by the power crisis, and the beer shelves were turned off.  Photo: Matthias Cleveland / TV2

WARM AND DARK: On Thursday, TV 2 wrote about the convenience store in Gunn Olsson and Pomlo, which was badly affected by the power crisis, and the beer shelves were turned off. Photo: Matthias Cleveland / TV2

What do you think the government should do?

They should accept criticism that they have spent too long identifying support programs for businesses large and small. I know it’s complicated, but I hope it works, says Olson.

Additionally, he believes it is right for the government to trade electricity with other countries, but controlling one’s own resources is more important than ever.

Municipal Minister answers

Local Government and District Minister Sigbjørn Gjelsvik (Sp) writes in an email to TV 2 that he understands well that municipalities in southern Norway experience the electricity situation as challenging.

Gjelsvik writes that municipalities have a higher priority in the future.

“We are in demanding times with the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis in Europe and sharp price increases. The government is prioritizing municipalities in the budget for 2023, which includes the expected cost growth of this sector.

Sympathy: Municipality and District Minister Sigbjørn Gjelsik (Sp) writes that he understands the municipalities' concerns very well.  Photo: Stein Roar Light / TV2

Sympathy: Municipality and District Minister Sigbjørn Gjelsik (Sp) writes that he understands the municipalities’ concerns very well. Photo: Stein Roar Light / TV2

At the same time, the minister writes that he believes municipalities should be better equipped to handle increased electricity costs and expenses.

At the same time they should be able to provide good services to the citizens.

“But there are big differences between municipalities, and some demand it more than others.”

Dark future prospects

We are now in the middle of October and the cold of winter is approaching.

Coupled with the energy crisis in Europe, we are likely to see higher electricity prices in the coming months.

Municipalities are also thinking about it, and the majority of the 77 respondents to TV2’s survey are afraid.

– There will be austerity measures

What will Bømlo Municipality do if prices rise and the situation worsens?

Upsurge: It's a new everyday life for Norwegians used to cheap electricity, says Bomlo Mayor Sami Olsen (SP).  Photo: Matthias Cleveland / TV2

Upsurge: It’s a new everyday life for Norwegians used to cheap electricity, says Bomlo Mayor Sami Olsen (SP). Photo: Matthias Cleveland / TV2

No, it goes beyond other things to be put aside. If you have enough electricity, then it is difficult for those who have to postpone their plans. The budget for 2023 has not yet been adopted, but Olson says there could be some tightening and postponements.

What do you think about what the survey of municipalities in southern Norway reveals?

That tells us something. We are used to managing electricity ourselves, we are used to low prices. “A lot of our operations are obviously electricity-based, so I understand that’s a concern,” Olsen says.

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