Shop lights out and air con set at 27C: What is Spain’s energy saving plan?

Spain's government on Monday outlined measures to cut energy consumption and fossil fuel dependence in the country. Here's a rundown of the main changes, from new rules for shops and public buildings to remote working recommendations.

Shops, public buildings and transport hubs will have to switch off their window lights by 10pm under the new rules. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)

The Spanish Cabinet on Monday approved the government’s ‘Energy Savings Plan’, a wide-ranging series of energy-saving measures focused on public buildings (town halls, employment offices etc), transport hubs such as airports and train stations, cultural spaces like theatres and cinemas as well as hotels, shops, department stores and other commercial spaces.

The aim is to increase energy savings and efficiency, cut costs, encourage a move to more sustainable fuels and renewable energies, and to show Spain’s support for broader European efforts to become less dependent on fossil fuels, amid not only bouts of extreme weather across the world but a volatile energy market caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to have air-conditioning at home in Spain?

Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, explained that the measures will be in force until at least November 1st 2023, and operational within seven days of publication in the country’s Official State Gazette (BOE).

Facing criticism from some, particularly Madrid regional President Isabel Ayuso, Ribera assured the Spanish population that it “will not be cold” heading into winter.

But what are the measures? What are the changes?

The rules

Under the new rules, public buildings, transport hubs, cultural spaces and shops must:

  • Set heating and cooling temperatures to a limit of 19C and 27C respectively. 
  • Install doors that automatically close by September 30th to prevent energy waste, as can happen with regular doors that are left open.
  • Window lights (as in those in shop windows) must be turned off at 10pm.
  • Boiler inspections: properties that passed their last energy efficiency inspections before January 1st 2021 must undergo another review before December 31st 2022 to meet the efficiency standards of the bill.
  • Posters must be put up to explain the energy saving measures in every building or establishment, and thermometers must be displayed to show the temperature and humidity of the room.

Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition has also made some lifestyle recommendations to further save on energy.


Remote working

Working from home, or, as its known in Spanish, teletrabajo, has been recommended for large companies and public administration buildings to help “save on the displacement and thermal consumption of buildings”, Ribera said.

As in many countries around Europe, working from home has been recommended to save on travel and energy consumption in large public buildings.

Working from home had already become much more common in Spain as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. The percentage of employed people who work more than half their days from home in Spain more than doubled, from 4.8 percent in 2019 to 10.8 percent after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2021 it fell slightly to 9.5 percent, according to figures from Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE).

According to Ribera, large companies that encourage more working from home could make savings of more than €1 million per year. 

Renewable energies

In addition, there are a number of measures to boost renewable energies, including:

  • A quicker move from fossil fuels to renewable energies.
  • Speeding up the development of electricity networks, especially with regard to Spain’s transport infrastructure

  • Connecting biogas, biomethane and hydrogen plants to the network of transmission and distribution pipelines.

  • Measures to increase the energy efficiency of different productive sectors and boost the electrification of the economy with €350 million in aid.

Taking off your ties?

Of course, the host of measures outlined by Ribera are to be implemented together as part of broader energy saving measures, and will support Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s novel measure of taking off his tie to save energy. 

READ ALSO: VIDEO: ‘Take your ties off’, Spain’s PM says in bid to save energy

Feeling a little more comfortable would save energy if it resulted in less air-conditioning being used, the Prime Minister has claimed.

“This means that we can all save energy,” he argued, adding that he had asked all ministers and public officials to stop wearing ties and hoped the private sector would also follow suit.

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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?