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ENERGY

Spain hails Berlin call for Europe gas link

Spain and Portugal backed Germany's call for a gas pipeline linking the Iberian peninsula with central Europe on Friday, with Madrid saying its part of the connection could be "operational" within months.

gas pipeline
Spain hails Berlin call for Europe gas link. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

The proposal came as Europe struggles to find ways to rapidly reduce its energy dependence on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, which has upended the power market, sending prices soaring and nations scrambling for supplies.

On Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said a pipeline running through Portugal, Spain and France to central Europe was “conspicuously absent” and if it existed, it could make “a massive contribution” to easing the supply crisis.

Spain currently has six liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals for processing gas that arrives by sea which could help the EU boost imports, but only has two, low-capacity links to France’s gas network, which has connections to the rest of Europe.

Madrid has been pushing for the revival of the pipeline project linking the Catalan Pyrenees with France, which could significantly increase its supply capacity.

Speaking to Spain’s public television, Ecology Minister Teresa Ribera welcomed the chancellor’s remarks and expressed Madrid’s “willingness to contribute to the energy crisis … using Spain’s regasification infrastructure”.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said such a pipeline link to central Europe was “a priority” for Portugal, welcoming Germany’s stance as upping “the pressure on European institutions” to make progress on this issue.

Although there was a good gas network in the Iberian Peninsula, the problem was transporting it across the Pyrenees, with Spain and its gas network operator Enagas working with the French authorities to develop “a more straightforward interconnection”, the Spanish minister said.

“This pipeline across the Catalan Pyrenees would require an investment,” she said, adding that “Enagas estimates that the pipeline could be operational within eight or nine months on the southern side of the border”. 

The pipeline would be similar to the defunct MidCat project which sought to link Portugal, Spain to France but it drew opposition from environmental groups and work was halted in 2019 when financing fell through.

But the Ukraine war has boosted calls to resume such plans, including from EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Speaking to AFP, an Enagas spokeswoman confirmed the timeline “of eight to nine months from the start of construction”.

Under its 2022-2030 strategic plan, the company aims to spend some €370 million on the pipeline project.

Ribera also said Spain was working to make better use of its existing pipelines by installing an additional compressor, which would allow it to increase the volume of gas exported by 20 to 30 percent.

This could take place within “two or three months”, she added.

“Obviously it’s not much – through these interconnections, we can provide up 2.0-2.5 percent of the gas consumed in the European Union as a whole – but it’s relevant.”

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ELECTRICITY

The cheapest rates Spain’s electricity companies don’t want you to know about

Finding a cheaper tariff is one of the best ways to counteract skyrocketing electricity bills, but a leading consumer watchdog has warned Spain’s electricity providers are not always open to telling customers about the best deal they can get.

The cheapest rates Spain's electricity companies don't want you to know about

Like in many parts of the world, inflation triggered by the war in Ukraine has made the energy market incredibly volatile and sent household electricity bills soaring in Spain. The average bill reached €158 in August, an eye-watering increase of over 60 percent compared to 2021.

To give you some idea of just how much prices have risen in Spain, in August of 2020 the average electricity bill was €64, in 2021 it was €93, and in August 2022 €158.

According to recent figures from Eurostat, electricity bills in Spain have risen eight times more than in France and four times more than in Germany. Whereas the average Spanish household paid 60 percent more in August compared to 2021, in France it rose by just 7.7 percent and in Germany 16.6 percent.

The Spanish government has tried various methods to ease the burden on households. In June the tax (IVA) on electricity bills was cut from 21 percent to 10 percent, and then it was quickly reduced again from 10 percent to 5. The European Commission agreed to cap gas used for power generation at €40 per megawatt-hour known as the ‘Iberian Exception’, with the price limit projected to average out at €50 over the coming 12 months.

READ MORE: Spain to cut electricity tax by half to ease inflation pain 

The Spanish government predicted the measure — which will be in effect until May 31st 2023 — would lead to a reduction in household energy prices of up to 20 percent, yet it has done little to limit the rise of electricity bills so far.

READ MORE:

Unsurprisingly, many Spaniards are now seeking ways to cut down on their bills, whether it be by using the washing machine at certain times to take advantage of off-peak hours, or limiting their use of air-conditioning.

Another method of saving on electricity costs is finding cheaper tariffs.

Yet finding the more affordable rates can be difficult to do, and often the electricity companies make them deliberately difficult to get hold of. That’s according to Spain’s Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), which have identified some of the cheapest tariffs on the market today. 

Understanding peak and off-peak

Spanish electricity companies offer different prices depending on the time of day you use your electrical appliances. The tariffs are often broken down into hora punta (peak time), hora llana (flat time), and hora valle (off-peak).

If you live in Spain, this is why you might’ve heard the incessant spinning of washing machines through the night in recent months. Nowadays many people simply wait until the weekend, when the tariffs are always off-peak.

So, if you’re thinking about switching, which are some of the best electricity rates you can find in Spain?

Repsol Tarifa Largo Plazo

According to the OCU, the Repsol Tarifa ‘Largo Plazo’ can only be found via this link, because the offer is actually hidden on the Repsol website. And for good reason, too. The Repsol tariff is among the best offers the  market in terms of price per kWh consumed, although the power for off-peak time is a little more than some of the other offers on the list.

The tariff is non-permanent, with a fixed price rate for 3 years.

kWh Prices

Price per kWh consumed: €0.17/kWh.

Peak hours: €29.90 per kW.
Off-peak hours: €29.90 per kW.

Iberdrola Online Plan

The Iberdrola Online Plan, which you can find here, is only available until September 30th, so be sure to take advantage of it as soon as possible.

Using Iberdrola’s online tool, you can select a kW rate and it will give you price estimates for the different values. If you’re environmentally minded, Iberdrola’s Online Plan claims to use 100 percent green electricity, so you can enjoy renewable energy and reduce your CO2 emissions.

There’s also 14 hours of savings during the night up until mid-morning.

This plan is only for customers who take out the contract online, as the name suggests, and features entirely electronic billing.

kWh Prices

Price per kWh consumed: €0.159353 + metered gas cost (in August €0.161529 /kWh).
Price per kW contracted during peak hours (fixed term): €30.66747.
Price per kW contracted during off-peak hours (fixed term): €4.104338. 

Not the prices will be revised in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on January 1st. 

Octopus Energy

Octopus Energy tariffs are not permanent and is all done online, which allows you the flexibility to move around again in the future if you come across a better offer. Octopus offer two fixed prices:

Octopus 3: price per kWh consumed during peak hours is 0.254 €/kWh; at flat time 0.209 €/kWh; and at off-peak hours 0.185 €/kWh.

Octopus Relax: price per kWh consumed of 0.212 €/kWh.

kWh Prices (both Octopus tariffs) 

Peak hours (fixed term): €32.85.
Off-peak hours (fixed term): €6.57.

Iberdrola Special Plan

The Iberdrola Special Plan offers a 15 percent discount during the first year, and its kWh prices for both on and off-peak are competitive with other cheaper tariffs.

kWh Prices

Price per kWh consumed: €0.178662 (minus the 15 percent extra discount) but plus a gas metering cost (which in August was €0.161529/kWh.)

Peak hours (fixed term): €30.52381
Off-peak hours (fixed term): €3.512901

Endesa ‘One Luz’ Tariff 

Endesa is currently offering the ‘One Luz’ tariff, which offers a 10 percent discount on consumption and an additional 10 percent reduction throughout the first year.

kWh Prices

Price per kWh consumed: €0.189 (plus the 10 percent +10 percent discount) + the metered gas cost (which in August was €0.161529/KWh).

Peak hours (fixed term): €33.86.

Off-peak hours (fixed term): €7.9973

Total Energies

Another interesting option is Total Energies, who offer entirely personalised pricing plans. Basically, Total Energies want to attract your business by outdoing your current rate. In order to receive a quote and see how it stacks up against your current provider, you simply upload a copy of your current bill to the website and Total Energies make an offer, often bettering your current rate.

If they make an offer, Total Energies promise a discount lasting for 4 years, although the price on which the discount is fixed is only valid for 12 months.

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

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