Spain aims to meet EU energy-saving targets with restrictions on heating and air conditioning. But bars and restaurants fear losing business as a result
Spaniards are still enjoying the sun at roadside cafés. It’s been a hot summer and a difficult winter lies ahead. The Spanish Government has passed legislation limiting air conditioning to a low of 27 degrees and heating to a maximum high of 19 degrees.
Bars fear losing business
Bars, Shops and offices will have to keep doors closed to guarantee energy efficiency. In Madrid alone, bar owners claim the new rules will cost them more than €500 million in lost business.
"We have to face the autumn and winter with a maximum indoor temperature of 19 degrees," says Juan José Blardony, director general of Hosteleria Madrid. "This is likely to decrease business by around 3%."
Public buildings will have to switch off their lights and shopfronts will be dark at night. Some short and mid-distance trains have been made free to boost public transport use. With these measures, Spain is hoping to meet the EU's target of 7% in energy savings.
Heated terraces remain
These measures will have a major impact inside bars, but some are wondering what's going to happen outside on the terraces. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Spaniards have become used to staying outside, even in winter.
In Madrid alone there are 3000 terraces with outdoor heating. The city council plans to ban gas heaters, but even just with electric radiators, outdoor cafés will burn up 78,000 kilowatts per hour a day.
"It makes no sense to ask supermarkets to put doors on dairy products shelves, and at the same time allow terraces to heat the street air with radiators," says Javier Pamos, of Fundación renovables. "We need a fast-track decree to stop this before winter."
More energy-saving measures planned
Spain hopes the new energy-saving rules will be enough to meet the EU targets, at least for a few months. But despite capping gas prices, electricity bill keeps rising. Energy is now three times more expensive than a year ago.
Joan Groizard is director general of the Spanish Institute for Diversification and Energy Saving at the Ministry for Ecological Transition. He says consultations are underway on the introduction of further measures.
"For us they're just a first package, a way to start with some initial steps," he says. "They're measures with little downside… the kind of actions that don't require effort or pain, because they need scarcely any investment. They're easy measures to implement.
"We're currently in a process with the autonomous regions, the industrial actors and the political parties, collecting proposals from all of them to make a broader contingency plan that can incorporate additional measures."
Solidarity with Europe
Groizard says Spain is better placed than many other European countries to face up to the crisis.
"It's true that Spain historically has had very little interconnection with the European electricity markets," he says. "This means that for many years, Spanish consumers haven't been able to benefit from Russian gas, when Russian gas was cheap and plentiful.
"Spaniards weren't able to benefit from cheaper electricity like other European countries and that meant Spain had to make big investments in regasification plants and other infrastructure to be more self-sufficient. In the current context, it seems the tables have turned and now Spain, with this infrastructure that has cost a lot of money to Spanish consumers, is in a much stronger position. We're much more resilient.
"So we're concerned about the coming winter, of course, but perhaps a bit calmer than our colleagues from the rest of Europe.
"And in this context, I think there's a fundamental pillar of the European Union, which is solidarity.
"Therefore, the reduction in energy consumption that we're implementing in Spain, with measures, that, I repeat, are very easy to put in place, will allow us to contain prices, increase our gas reserves as much as possible and eventually it will also allow us to share any surplus gas - given our infrastructure capacity - with other countries like France, for example, using our existing interconnection."