For members


Is Spain ready to be the EU’s main natural gas supplier?

The EU believes Spain can play a pivotal role in reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, but is the Spanish energy infrastructure ready to meet such demands?

Is Spain ready to be the EU's main natural gas supplier?
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (R) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as she arrives for their meeting at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid on March 5th, 2022. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

During an official visit to Madrid last Saturday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed the “important role” Spain could play in reducing the EU’s dependence on gas from Russia. 

“We have to free ourselves from Russian gas, oil and coal,” the EC president stressed, as the lack of natural resources means the EU has to import 40 percent of the energy it consumes.

Von der Leyen wants to entrust this responsibility to Pedro Sánchez’s government because Spain is the country with the largest gas storage and regasification capacity in Europe.

According to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), which is made up of 67 companies in 26 European countries including the United Kingdom, 35 percent of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage capacity in the EU and the UK is in Spain. 

Spain’s LNG storage capacity of 3.31 million cubic metres is higher than the United Kingdom’s 2.09 million (22 percent of the total), France 1.35 million (14 percent), Belgium’s 0.56 million (6 percent) and Italy 0.54 million (5 percent).

Spain ranks 93rd in the world for natural gas reserves and therefore imports 99 percent of its natural gas from ten different countries, which gives the Spanish gas system a high supply capacity. 

Most of it comes from Algeria (44 percent), and only 10.5 percent from Russia.

There are three main underground gas storage centres in Spain located in strategic positions in the north and centre of the country.

According to Spain’s national gas grid operator Enagás, 58 percent of this gas reaches Spain by gas pipeline while the remaining 42 percent does so in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) that is transported by ships at 160 degrees below zero in methane tankers.

This gas in a liquid state is unloaded at different plants and through a regasification process the temperature is increased so that it passes into a gaseous state in order for it to be injected into gas pipelines for transportation.

Spain is also at the forefront in Europe when it comes to regasification capacity.

Its infrastructure accounts for 27 percent of all the regasification capacity of GIE countries, with the UK again in second place with 22 percent of the total and France in third with 17 percent. 

Enagás has four regasification plants in Barcelona, ​​Cartagena (Murcia), Huelva and Gijón, the latter not yet operational.

All this evidence suggests Spain can be in a position to help Europe free itself from Russia’s energy grip, but are there any obstacles that could prevent it from happening? 

In 2021, Spain imported 44 percent of its natural gas from Algeria. (Photo by AFP)

What problems could Spain face in supplying natural gas to the EU?

The main issue that would have to be solved is the lack of existing gas pipeline connections between Spain and the rest of mainland Europe. 

This could potentially cause a bottleneck at the Pyrenees.

The Midcast gasoduct, a gas pipeline project that was put on hold due to objections by Spanish and French regulators, may have to be resumed. 

Spain’s Minister for the Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera on Monday March 9th said her government is willing to kick-start the project in Catalonia, as long as the EU covers the cost.  

“Spain’s regasification and gas storage capacity is so large that it makes sense that it could also be beneficial for our European neighbours and for their security of supply,” Ribera acknowledged.

Despite this enormous capacity, in late 2021 Enagás reported that the country’s underground gas storage centres were 82 percent full already, which calls into question just how much more natural gas Spain could store for the gargantuan task of supplying 450 million EU citizens.

Much of this gas supply to the EU would also depend on Algeria, and the ongoing diplomatic spat between the north African nation and its neighbour Morocco has resulted in Spain being sandwiched in the middle. 

This resulted in Algeria temporarily cutting gas supplies to Spain last year (the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline passes through Morocco), so it could prove troublesome in future. 

Fortunately however, the other route is the Medgaz gas pipeline, through which Algeria sends gas directly to the Spanish mainland. Its capacity has now been increased and an extension of the gasoduct is about to become fully operational.

The question that remains is whether Spain will be able to rise to the challenge, and in doing so, increase its influence within the EU, diversify its economy and create new jobs.

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For members


How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain.