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Monday, July 15, 2024

Power prices under probe

State officials are looking into the record-high rates for electric power that shocked Norwegians this winter. Utility companies blame low water levels in mountain reservoirs and other factors, but concerns remain.

Mountain reservoirs, full after last summer's rains, are now reportedly running low. PHOTO: NVE
Norwegian businesses and households, especially in the central and northern parts of the country, have been stunned by the electricity bills turning up in the mailboxes lately. Some are double, triple or even quadruple earlier levels, and protests are rolling in.

Many power providers have beefed up customer service lines to deal with the complaints, and offering special payment extensions. Never before have electricity rates been so high as they were in February, the highest in all of Europe at one point.

Now state authorities, led by energy directorate NVE (Norges Vassdrags- og energidirektorat), say they’re investigating the power prices set by deregulated utility firms around the country. State competition authorities are involved in the probe, to determine whether the power providers suppressed electricity production to push up prices.

“We will look extra closely at the high prices,” NVE director Agnar Aas told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Asked whether they suspect some utility firms held back production to demand higher prices, Aas said “that’s among the things we want to look into.”

The record cold winter all over Norway and the entire Nordic region led to record high demand for heating, at the same time as reservoir levels fell. There also was high demand further south in Europe while production of nuclear power in Sweden was disrupted.

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