/ Paradoxically, people close to hydropower plants in Sweden are most vulnerable to energy problems.

Sweden ● EXPOSED*

Photos by ©Simon Eliasson

The energy challenge in Sweden’s remote northern areas is less about lack of electricity and more about frequent outages. Some last only a few minutes, others stretch out over several days. Knowing that outages will come, local residents invest heavily in being well-prepared. Given the country’s strong economic standing, a degree of outrage at being exposed to this vulnerability over several decades is not out of line.

Yet, at the EU level, Sweden has argued against making action to end energy poverty an element of energy-related directives.

“Sweden does not differentiate energy poverty from poverty in general, and the term energy poverty is therefore not used. The issue is handled within the social politics and there are no measures specifically targeting energy poverty.” (Ministry of Infrastructure, 2020). Additional government documents refer to the country’s strong social support system, covering costs for adequate warmth and other household- and energy-related demands, including accommodation, for low-income and other vulnerable groups (Johansson et al., 2015). Importantly, regulations are in place that oblige energy suppliers to contact social services before disconnecting customers who have arrears on their energy bills.1

Still, progress is evident on some fronts. When existing dams were built, many people were forced to re-locate and traditional grounds of the indigenous Sami people were destroyed. Unharnessed rivers and the people who rely on them are now better protected by law, and Sweden’s share of other renewables is increasing. 

For more information on the Swedish situation, visit: www.eppedia.eu/article/energy-poverty-sweden

* EXPOSED was co-produced by EnAct and the EU Energy Poverty Observatory in 2018.

Nattavaara, Gällivare,

Days are short and cold in December in Nattavaara, Gällivare.  With only 5.4 hours of daylight, the average temperature ranges from a high of -7°C (19°F) to a low of -13°C (8°F). But it can drop as low as -52°C ( Every day has a 24% chance of snow, which accumulates over time.

Kitteludden, Jokkmokk • Margareta Kuhmunen, 68, and Lars Kuhmunen, 75, reindeer herders

Since we have no neighbours and spend most of the summertime away herding reindeer, we are particularly vulnerable to outages. We have no one to notify the power company. Last year, the house was without electricity for weeks: all the meat we had in freezers spoiled.

Nattavaara, Gällivare • Inga-Lillie Axelsson, 81, retired

I've had around 30 to 40 short outages during the past six months. I keep the bathtub filled with water and make sure to keep canned food, as well as a battery-powered light and radio, and a gas stove. The worst part is that even the phone stops working; it worries me that if I fall, I won't be able to call for help.

Nattavaara, Gällivare • Dirk Hagenbuch, 48, owner of village store with Eva-Karin Johansson Björk, 45, employee

The local general store struggles with frequent and long-lasting outages, a problem that escalated over the fall of 2015.

At one point we had no electricity for 43 hours. The week after, an outage lasted more than 20 hours. Food and goods worth hundreds of thousands of Swedish crowns went bad.

The local business association has since invested in an expensive generator that guarantees power supply to several enterprises.

Jokkmokk • Messaure Power Station

Sweden relies heavily on hydro-electricity; 1 900 plants across the country generate more than 50% of supply. Several of the largest dams are located in remote northern areas, meaning power lines are exposed to harsh weather throughout much of the year.

Connect with EnAct on social media channels: 


EnAct is a project of ACT 4, a non-profit association registered in France (No. de Siret: 805 036 936 00013) that supports cultural initiatives that raise awareness of and engagement in social issues.


14 blvd Anatole France, 93300 Aubervilliers, France


+33 616 018 932