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ENERGY

‘Outrageous bills’: How readers are coping with high energy prices in Norway

Energy bills in Norway are set to soar this winter. We asked readers how they were coping and how they've changed their habits to try and save money.

Pictured is a thermostat.
Readers of The Local Norway have shared with us how energy prices have led to them changing their habits. Pictured is a thermostat. Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Energy prices in Norway have soared over the past year. Prices are high because of low-reservoir filling levels (Norway is dependent on hydroelectric power), the war in Ukraine and soaring gas prices.

As a result, energy bills have also skyrocketed, despite a government subsidy scheme which sees the state pick up 90 percent of the bill when market prices rise above 70 øre kWh.

Even with the support, readers are finding current energy prices incredibly difficult. Just under 80 percent of those who responded to a survey by The Local said they were finding it “very hard” or “fairly” hard, while 11 percent said the situation was about the same as a year ago.

One reader told The Local that current prices left them and their partner fearing whether they would be able to pay their next bill.

“It’s only my husband and me in the house, and the bill for last month was outrageous. We are now turning off heating, only using an oven (to cook), turning off fish tanks all day, and only having five-minute showers, as anything over that costs 60 kroner. It’s now cheaper to have a bath, we now only bathe if needed and use the washing machine twice a week, and in (the) early hours, so electricity is cheaper. Between 6-8pm, when it’s the most expensive, we don’t turn on any large appliances that drain power in the hope that we can pay the bill for next month,” Sarah Louise wrote.

In contrast, just 11 percent said that the situation wasn’t that hard. Those that said that prices were similar to last year or not that hard to cope with were more often living in areas of the country where prices are the lowest, such as central Norway.

Prices in the north and central Norway are typically much lower than elsewhere as those parts of the country have a surplus, meaning more energy is produced than is needed.

Just under 90 percent of those who responded to our survey said that they had changed their habits to reduce their energy bills.

Vivianne, who lives in Larvik, shared a raft of habits she had changed to reduce energy bills.

“(Using the) heating less, turning the lights (off) as soon as I don’t need them, using the oven to cook several things (at once), charging (the) phone, tablet etc. at night, turning off the TV and unpluging electronics I’m not using. (I) go for a walk when I feel cold, once back inside it feels warmer. (I am) going to bed earlier to warm up the bed, wearing more layers inside and (have) more blankets in bed, she wrote.

Another reader, from Oslo, said that they had tried making consuming more energy when prices are lower a habit.

“Use electricity when it’s cheap and trying to distribute the usage more in off-peak hours,” they wrote.

That reader isn’t alone in managing their energy usage around price fluctuations. Last month, energy firms noticed a change in customers’ habits to adapt to energy prices. Electricity prices in Norway fluctuate throughout the day, typically peaking when more people use the grid and falling when less power is being used.

READ ALSO: How people in Norway are changing their habits to keep energy bills down

One reader from India living in Stavanger told us that they’re trying to save power-intensive tasks, like cooking and laundry, until after 9pm and trying to use less power overall.

Planning their energy usage around dips in energy price was the most common answer we received from readers who’d told us they’d changed their consumption habits. Planning laundry around price dips was the most mentioned example of this among readers. 

Another common change that readers implemented to try and keep their energy bills to a minimum included turning down the heating indoors, centrally, as well as for underfloor heating.

Given that people are lowering temperatures to try and save money on energy, some are also turning to alternative heating sources to keep their homes warm. The Local has previously spoken to experts in both the fireplace and heat pump markets who have said they have seen a huge increase in demand from people looking for alternative ways to stay warm this winter.

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For members

BANKING

The verdict: What are the best banks for foreigners in Norway? 

Picking the right bank in Norway, or even getting an appointment to open an account, can be hard. Thankfully, The Local’s readers have shared their experiences and advice to give you a head start. 

The verdict: What are the best banks for foreigners in Norway? 

Upon moving to Norway, opening a bank account will be one of the very first things you’ll have to do. 

Overseas accounts are unlikely to cut it for everyday tasks like paying bills or receiving a Norwegian salary. 

Even after spending a few years in Norway, you may eventually become dissatisfied with your bank and wish to make the switch. 

We asked readers of The Local to share some of their best insider tips in a recent survey (special thanks to those who contributed). 

READ ALSO: The key things you need to know about savings accounts in Norway

In the case of our readers, the Sparebank group came out on top as it was the financial institution that received the most positive feedback from readers who answered the survey. 

“In my case, SpareBank 1 SR-bank were very quick to reply to my request to open a bank account without BankID. I filled out the online form and went straight to the bank without an appointment. I was welcomed, and they understood the situation. One week later, we had our BankID and bank account up and running. Some other banks took longer or never replied,” an Algerian reader living in Bergen responded.

“The downside, it costs 400 kroner to open a bank account without BankID (other banks offer it for free). Also, the fees are a bit higher than other options,” he added. 

The reader also praised the app and the customer service experience in person or over the phone. 

Other readers were also impressed with the customer service from the Sparebank group.

“Sparebank1 for their excellent customer service and good and honest advice,” Arjen, who lives in Jessheim, responded when asked about the best bank in Norway. 

After Sparebank, DNB and Handelsbanken were the banks to receive the most recommendations from our readers. 

Handelsbanken received good feedback for the high interest-rate accounts it offers to union members. 

Meanwhile, DNB received praise for it being easy to set up an account with them if you are a student. Another was happy that they lived near a branch, making it easy to walk in and speak to an advisor whenever they wished. 

However, DNB was also the bank to receive the harshest feedback from our readers. 

“DNB, terrible app, terrible conditions (interests, loans, etc) and terrible customer service,” Alireza, an Iranian living in Oslo, complained when asked about the banks foreigners should avoid. 

Another wrote that they felt that the bank only valued customers with high incomes, while another said that the bank’s service improved once they had access to BankID. 

Sbanken could be considered a middle-of-the-pack option by our readers as it didn’t really attract overwhelmingly positive or negative feedback. 

The Norwegian Customer Barometer published figures on customer satisfaction, and in 2023, it was Sbanken that received the highest customer satisfaction rating with 84.8 percent. 

Handelsbanken was second with an approval rating of 79.8 percent. Sparebank 1 had a customer satisfaction rating of 74.3 percent, which placed it fourth. 

DNB was the worst-rated bank among Norwegians, with an approval rating of just 65.3 percent. 

However, Norwegians will likely have a very different banking experience to most foreigners as they already possess all the paperwork to open an account, and all the paperwork they need to look over is in their native tongue – therefore, what works for the locals may not always work for foreigners. 

Being an active customer with different banks may be best 

As one reader pointed out, it is likely that there wasn’t a single bank that acted as a silver bullet for customers, and they may need to shop around to maximise their returns. 

When the reader responded to the survey, they said that there wasn’t a bank that managed to offer a good app and customer service experience, good savings and investing options, and Apple Pay integration all in one package. 

For example, some banks in Norway ask for higher deposits from foreigners to secure a mortgage – meaning that while you could be thrilled with your current account, your mortgage options may not be as rosy. 

Norway’s consumer council has various portals for comparing financial institutions, from current accounts to mortgages.

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