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11 ways to cut costs as Spain’s electricity rates beat all-time price records

War in Ukraine has pushed electricity prices in Spain to the highest rate on record - €544 per megawatt hour (MWh). Here are 11 ways to cut down on consumption and therefore your energy bills during this period of extreme market volatility.

11 ways to cut costs as Spain's electricity rates beat all-time price records
2021, people in Spain paid an average of €949 in electricity compared to €675 in 2020. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN/AFP

The price of electricity in Spain’s wholesale market has been set at €544.98 per megawatt hour for Tuesday March 8th 2022, a €100 rise in just 24 hours and an all-time record for Spain’s energy sector.

Between 7pm and 8pm on Tuesday, Spaniards will pay €700/MWh for electricity, truly outlandish rates.

A year ago, the average price per megawatt hour was just €45.44, although over the course of 2021 the price did first double and then quadruple that rate as the Covid-19 pandemic, inflation, adverse weather and a volatile natural gas market all formed the perfect storm for consumers.

And yet, those sky-high rates pale in comparison with what people in Spain now have to pay, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proving to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The same is now happening in Germany, France and Italy (although not quite to the same extent as in Spain), increasing pressure on Brussels to find ways for the EU’s natural gas and electricity markets to not be so closely aligned.

To be clear, the record €544.98 megawatt hour (MWh) rate does not mean that every person’s monthly electricity bill in Spain is going to be in the thousands of euros (for interest’s sake, the average Spanish household consumes 0.0099 megawatt hour).

But you are likely to pay more. Over the course of 2021, people in Spain paid an average of €949 in electricity compared to €675 in 2020.

So the forecast under the current climate of war and global energy crises will mean your monthly bill could easily rise by €20 or €30, perhaps higher.

To help you counteract this spike in electricity rates in Spain, here are 11 tips that can help you reduce consumption and thus costs during this period of extreme market volatility.

Familiarise yourself with Spain’s cheaper electricity times

It’s become more expensive to use electricity in the first part of the day from 10am – 2pm and in the evenings from 6pm – 10pm from Monday to Friday. 

The average times are between 8am – 10am, 2pm – 6pm and 10pm – midnight. 

The cheapest times will be in the early mornings on weekdays and all day on Saturday, Sunday, as well as national holidays.

Adapt your contracted power to your real needs

Those on an estimated energy tariff could switch their contract to one that only charges them for the electricity they actually use and need. Free power changes are allowed until May 31st, 2022. This must be requested through your energy provider.

Check the maximum power and usage data

Check on your energy provider’s website to find out your consumption data and adjust your contracted electricity accordingly. Spain’s National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) suggests that this could save you up to €16 per year by doing this alone.

Avoid too much usage all at once

Using more than one appliance or electrical device at the same time pushes up consumption. For example, if you use the oven, the kettle and the washing machine at the same time, you will pay a lot more on your bill than if you use them separately. The CNMC has also said that “the iron is one of the devices with the highest consumption. Avoiding turning on all devices at the same time can lead to savings of between €200 and €300 per year”.

Shift consumption to periods outside peak hours

If possible, change the times when you use the most electricity. For contracted power during the cheapest times, the price is actually 95 percent lower than in the highest period.

Avoid stand-by mode on devices

Keeping televisions, laptops and other electronics and appliances plugged in and in stand-by mode whilst not being used does add up in the long run. 

If you unplug or switch off the current to these devices this can result in reducing your electricity bill by up to 10 percent annually. 

Use LED bulbs and remember to switch the lights off

LED bulbs use up to 80 percent less electricity than regular bulbs. Even though they are more expensive, they last 12 times longer on average. 

The average annual saving on people’s electricity bills when replacing normal bulbs with LED ones was €14 per bulb in 2018, before Spain’s electricity rates skyrocketed.

And although it may seem obvious, remembering to switch off lights and prioritising natural light in sunny Spain is a no-brainer if you want to cut costs.

Wash your clothes at less hot temperatures

As a basic rule, washing machine programmes running at low temperatures consume less than those running at higher temperatures. For example, washing clothes at 40°C instead of 60°C saves up to 55 percent consumption.

Use your fridge efficiently

As with the washing machine and dishwasher, it is possible  to reduce electricity consumption  through the refrigerator if you adjust its temperature to around 5°C and the freezer temperature to -18°C .

 In the case of the freezer, it’s also important to defrost it regularly, since the accumulation of ice can increase consumption by up to 30 percent.

Reduce your spending on heating

First, keep in mind that electric heating can be up to five times more expensive than gas heating in Spain.

Remember also for each degree you put the heating up, consumption will increase by 7 percent, so try to put on a jumper instead of keeping your heating above 20 °C.

Don’t overdo it with the air conditioning

This may be a big ask for those who live in parts of Spain that get extremely hot during the summer months, but there are few ways to cut costs of this high-consumption device. 

Buy an air con machine with an inverter system rather than one without as they’re 40 percent more efficient, install it in a place that doesn’t receive direct sunlight, use blinds and sunshades to help to keep your home cool during the hot hours of the day, and when temperatures drop in the evening switch off your air conditioning and air your home instead.

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For members

BRITONS IN SPAIN

Can British people in Spain claim the UK’s winter fuel payment?

In the UK, there are various benefits available to help eligible people through the cold winter months – one of which is the winter fuel payment. But can Britons living in Spain claim this benefit to cover the cost of heating their Spanish homes?

Can British people in Spain claim the UK's winter fuel payment?

Energy costs are on the up in Spain, and with the winter fast approaching the added cost of paying for heating when the mercury drops can result in some very high bills.

Not all of Spain has freezing winters but there are often cold spells and many houses in the country tend to get even colder than it is outside.

READ MORE: Why are Spanish homes so cold?

The average winter temperature across Spain is 8C (1981 to 2010 average). That’s higher than the average in other European countries, but in Spain’s interior and mountainous areas it can be truly chilly from November to March.  

That means that overall, there’s a chance you’ll need to use a radiator or the central heating to keep your Spanish home warm.

So are some of the 400,000+ UK nationals who reside in Spain eligible for winter fuel financial support from the UK?

What is the UK’s winter fuel payment?

The UK’s winter fuel payment is a tax-free payment to help older people with heating costs during the cold winter months.

Those eligible must have been born before September 26th 1956, according to the UK government website.

How much people receive depends on their age and whether anyone else in the household is also eligible, but the amount is usually between £250 and £600.

I’m a UK national living in Spain. Can I claim the winter fuel payment?

The UK government states that those living abroad can benefit from the winter fuel payment if:

  • You moved to an eligible country before 1st January 2021
  • You were born before September 26th 1956
  • You have a genuine and sufficient link to the UK – this can include having lived or worked in the UK, and having family in the UK

While many EU nations are on the list of eligible countries, such as Austria, Germany, Sweden, and Italy, unfortunately Spain is not on the list.

This means that if you live in Spain, you will not be able to claim the winter fuel payment at all, even if you meet the age conditions.

Why isn’t Spain on the eligible list of countries?

The UK government services website nidirect states that “you cannot get the payment if you live in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain because the average winter temperature is higher than the warmest region of the UK”.

This is despite the fact that some parts of Spain are a lot colder than the average UK winter temperatures. This includes cities, towns and villages near mountain ranges such as the Pyrenees or Sierra Nevada, or regions in the interior like Castilla-La Mancha, Aragón​​ and Castilla y León.

According to the British government, during winter the average temperature is between 2 and 7 C in the UK.

READ ALSO: Where are the coldest places in Spain?

Foreigners in Spain used to be able to claim this financial benefit, but it was scrapped in 2015 after many UK taxpayers were angry that UK winter fuel payments were going to help people that lived in countries that were generally warmer than the UK.

READ ALSO: Which UK benefits can Brits keep if they move to Spain?

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