“I don’t think all the households with dramatically high energy prices think the subsidy was too large,” Sweden’s finance minister, Elisabeth Svantesson, said after the report was published.
The council argued that it would have been better to offer a less extensive subsidy, with the government instead focusing more on support aimed at particularly vulnerable households.
“If they had not offered such large subsidies in those areas, they would have had the opportunity to do other things which we believe would have been better for the economy,” said Lars Heikensten, chairman of the Fiscal Policy Council.
The money could, according to the council, have also been used for measures aimed at increasing economic growth – measures which the report states are “conspicuously absent”.
The council’s vice chairman, Lisa Laun, agreed that there was good reason to give a certain amount of economic support to households. She did, however, point out that subsidies in general are problematic, as the best way to lower electricity prices is to reduce the demand for electricity.
Svantesson argued that the government had instead made sure that households were partly refunded for the cost of capacity charges, adding that it would “not have been possible” to give more tailored support to vulnerable households.
“We used the capacity fees to refund the fees households and companies had paid in,” she said.
The council argued, however, that the government would have been better able target measures to vulnerable households in its budget, without also fuelling inflation, if the energy price subsidy had been less extensive.
The price subsidy announced in January, which compensated for households across the country for energy prices in November and December last year, came in for particularly harsh criticism, as households in southern Sweden had already received compensation through the subsidy announced by the previous government prior to the election.
Svantesson, however, said that the price support subsidy announced in January had not compensated users in southern Sweden twice, as it covered a different time period.
The council was also critical of the energy price support subsidy offered to companies in southern Sweden, arguing that companies to a large extent have been able to pass on their increased energy costs to consumers.
“High consumers of electricity also often have long, fixed energy contracts, meaning that there’s a risk that the subsidy for companies actually exceeds the increased costs they’ve paid for electricity,” Laun said.
The government wanted to subsidise companies as soon as possible, Svantesson explained.
“Of course, there’s almost always room for improvement. If we offer some type of energy subsidy in the future, it’s good to take these viewpoints into consideration.”