Costs rise as temperatures fall

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Bitterly cold weather is taking its toll on the wallets of homeowners, insurance companies and government authorities. Electricity rates in some parts of Norway have jumped after all, gas production has been reduced, cities face higher costs for tackling air pollution and snow removal, and insurance companies are reporting huge claims from frost-related damage.

After several weeks of sub-freezing temperatures, the bills are starting to roll in.
In Bergen, city officials felt compelled on Tuesday to offer free bus service — and more of it — to keep motorists from using their own cars. Lack of wind combined with exhaust and smoke from fireplaces has left Bergen with the highest levels of air pollution in Europe.

“The most important thing we can all do is let our cars stand still,” said Monica Mæland, head of the city government.

Officials were offering free express bus service into town and urging others to car pool if they had no other means of public transport.They also intended to block off parking spaces both on the streets and in public garages, as another means of discouraging car use.

Residents of central Norway have seen their electricity rates soar in line with demand, even though state officials have claimed the country has plenty of supply to meet demand. British officials, however, reportedly were uneasy because cold weather had forced closure of some key Norwegian gas production plants on which they rely for energy.

Unusually low temperatures forced reduced production at several sites in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, reports news bureau NTB. The Ormen Lange plant was closed on Saturday, and gas production at the Karstø plant was also cut to a third of normal levels.

Gas from Ormen Lange travels in pipes to Easington in England, and makes up a large portion of the country’s energy needs. Total production was cut in half over the weekend but was rising again at Karstø early this week.

Insurance companies, meanwhile, are reporting as much as NOK 300 million in claims just since New Year, from businesses and homeowners who have suffered water damage from burst pipes and radiators, or fires.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) could report one piece of good news related to the weather: The lack of wind has allowedconstruction work on the new Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Osloto continue uninterrupted, meaning it’s expected to be open on time for World Championship trials in mid-March.