Last year’s historically low electricity bills in Norway are now estimated to rise by as much as NOK 10,000 (USD 1,200) this year. Politicians have agreed to boost social welfare payments to those hit the hardest.
The government and a majority in Parliament ended up supporting a proposal last week from the Socialist Left party (SV) to increase what’s called bostøtten (cost of living aid) and regular social welfare payments to those with the lowest incomes in Norway. The assistance had been sought after electricity rates started soaring last month and reached record-high levels this month.
The aid was generally well-received, with newspaper Aftenposten editorializing over the weekend that the direct aid to those hit hardest by the higher bills was better than reductions in taxes on electricity. Newspaper DN also editorialized that simply cutting such taxes and fees that show up on monthly bills wouldn’t have helped much.
Nor were proposals to halt exports of Norwegian electricity, in order to boost supply and lower rates at home, viewed as the right solution. “That would have been a threat to our overall supplies,” Aftenposten editorialized, since Norway wouldn’t have been able to import wind power from abroad in return, if needed. It was also seen as undermining energy cooperation with other countries that otherwise has been advantageous for Norway over the past decade.
Norwegians are being advised to reduce their electricity consumption but not to the point of freezing inside their homes this winter. “It’s important that folks get the help they need,” Rigmor Aasrud, who leads the Labour Party’s delegation in Parliament, told news bureau NTB. The aid proposal was rushed through Parliament, since lots of big bills are currently landing in Norwegian mailboxes this week.