Sweden Closing Down Churches in Bid to Save Energy

Houses of worship throughout Sweden will be closing or turning heating off

Image Credits: Jonas Gratzer/Getty Images.

As part of the nationwide effort to save power as energy prices go sky-high, Sweden has started closing down churches in an attempt to economize.

In August alone, the cost of energy in Sweden jumped by an astonishing 29 percent. Soaring costs have exacerbated the cost-of-living crisis, with food prices having risen for nine months in a row and inflation regularly reaching new records. Amid the towering costs, Sweden has been warned of possible power cuts during a winter of energy rationing.

As the harsh Nordic winter approaches, houses of worship throughout Sweden will be closing or, alternatively, turning off the heating.

Markus Dahlberg, the Church of Sweden’s head of cultural heritage, told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that these kind of measures are being mooted in many areas of Sweden, but especially in the south where energy prices are highest.

“Many churches are located in rural towns. In congregations with lots of buildings and a low base in membership fees, the responsibility for taking care of church buildings becomes a greater burden”, he admitted.

Andreas Månsson in the diocese of Lund suggested that up to 150 of the diocese’s 540 churches could close either fully or partially this winter to save energy.

“There’s no doubt that heating is the greatest expense. Lots of the buildings have quite bad insulation. Lund diocese has invested a lot in making the buildings more efficient, but we’re still talking about large buildings that swallow up heating”, he told newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

In the parish of Getinge-Oskarström in southern Halland County alone, three of the seven churches are closing or dropping their heating to 11 degrees over the winter, Swedish Radio reported. Those that remain open, will lower the temperature to 18 degrees to help the parish make ends meet.

“It’s about balancing our budget, and obviously also about showing solidarity with the rest of society,” vicar Joachim Franzén told the newspaper Aftonbladet.

In the parish of Malmö, it has been proposed to move all activities to a single church and leave the less visited churches empty during the coldest period.

“If someone wants a funeral or wedding, you can heat up the church temporarily,” property manager Nils-Urban Råwall said, as quoted by national broadcaster SVT.

Other measures to combat runaway electricity prices include lowering the temperature in swimming pools and gyms and turning off saunas, ice rinks, and other “energy-intensive leisure centers”.

Energy prices across Europe have been rocketing since the EU countries unleashed self-harming sanctions on Russia over its special military operation in Ukraine. Brussels’ “punitive” measures against Russia resulted in a wave of inflation in the bloc, with record-high prices and heavy electricity bills.

Sweden has warned of looming power cuts during a winter of possible energy rationing. According to the Swedish Civil Contingencies agency MSB, power rationing could, among other things, affect traffic lights, trams, heating and communications as well as electronic locks to properties.

In August alone, the cost of power jumped 29 percent, according to Statistics Sweden. Ballooning energy costs have emphasized the cost-of-living crisis, with food prices having risen for nine consecutive months.

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