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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.

SPAIN-ENERGY-SAVING
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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ENERGY

EXPLAINED: Why is Spain running out of ice?

A combination of skyrocketing utilities bills and scorching summer weather has made ice cubes a hot commodity and increasingly hard to come by in Spain.

EXPLAINED: Why is Spain running out of ice?

If you’re in Spain at the moment, you’re probably struggling with el calor – the heat. With record breaking heatwaves coming earlier every year and the mercury touching 45C in places, Spaniards across the country are struggling to find ways to keep cool and avoid the heat, using fans, air-conditioning, and ice.

This summer in Spain, however, the intense heat combined with rising energy bills have made ice much harder to come by.

A perfect storm of suppliers struggling with spiking energy bills, the scorching summer heat and return of tourists means that Spain is running out of ice. 

So, what’s actually going on?

READ ALSO: Sweating like a chicken: 18 Spanish phrases to complain about the heat like a true Spaniard

The numbers

In Spain approximately 2 million kilograms of ice are produced every day. During a normal year, the spring months would see another 2 million kilograms put aside and stored every day in preparation to meet the increased demand for ice during the summer, which doubles to around 4 million kilograms a day.

This year however, with its sweltering summer heatwaves, demand for ice cubes skyrocketed to staggering 8 million kilos per day and, with very little ice stored, suppliers only have the capacity to prove around two million kilograms a day – nowhere near demand.

READ ALSO: Will Spain’s third heatwave be as bad as the last one?

This shortage has made ice a very hot commodity and increasingly hard to come by. In some supermarkets purchases of bags of ice have been limited to one per person, a move reminiscent of the rush for toilet rolls in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And with the current volatility of the energy markets, it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.

Energy bills

Spiralling inflation and utilities bills are affecting all walks of life, not only in Spain but across Europe and the world.

People have been forced to make sacrifices, adjust their lifestyles, and just like the Spanish government requesting companies and public buildings to limit their energy consumption to save on fuel, the energy market has also played a direct role in Spain’s ice shortage.

Ricardo Blasco, owner of one of Madrid’s oldest ice manufacturers, Hielo Blasco, told Reuters this his power bills have risen by between 50 and 60 percent since the start of the year and that he was forced to delay production from March to May to try and offset the crippling costs.

Blasco’s story is a common one. At the start of the year, Spanish ice suppliers did not produce as much as normal – certainly not enough to stockpile as much as they usually would – because of a combination of the financial impact of energy bills and the unpredictability of tourist demand during the first real restriction free summer following the pandemic.

But tourism has returned to Spain in a big way. According to Spain’s tourism ministry, 22.7 million tourists visited the country in the first five months of 2022 alone, seven times the number in the same period a year earlier, with the trend set to continue into the summer.

READ MORE: Spain eyes tourism record after ‘dazzling’ summer surge

With holidaymakers desperate to enjoy Spain’s record breaking summer heatwaves and manufacturers worried about paying the bills, ice, a staple of Spanish summer life, has now become much harder to get your hands on.

Although it may mean you now have to have your drink without ice, or can’t take a bag of ice cubes down the beach, perhaps nothing encapsulates as perfectly the two major problems facing Spanish society today: extreme weather and extreme energy bills.

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