The Spanish Congress this week approved the government’s energy-saving rules which include limits on air-conditioning use as part of an EU-wide effort to reduce reliance on Russian gas.
Spanish MPs voted 187 to 161 in favour of the decree, which came into effect on 10 August but required ratification from parliament to remain in force.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s minority coalition government between the PSOE socialists and left-wing Podemos group lacks a working majority in parliament, but it managed to pass the rules with the support of smaller regional parties.
‘Common sense, healthy politics and policies that defend the general interest triumphed today in parliament,’ Sánchez told a press conference in Quito where he was on an official visit after the vote.
Under the government decree, air conditioning must be turned down and set at no lower than 27C during the warmest months of the year, in rules affecting everything from public transport to shops, offices, theatres and cinemas.
The new rules do not apply to home air conditioning, although people are encouraged to consume less energy domestically.
During the summer months, temperatures across Spain often hit 40C or higher.
The legislation also affects heating in winter, when temperatures can be set no higher than 19C.
The decree also requires that from 10pm, shops switch off window-display lighting in a move also affecting the illumination of public buildings.
By the end of September, any air-conditioned or heated premises must have an automatic door-closing mechanism installed to avoid energy waste.
The main opposition group, the right wing People’s Party (PP) voted against the measures, calling many of them ‘improvised’ and harmful for the economy. Spain’s third largest political group, the far-right Vox party, also voted against the measure.
The PP also complained that the new rules were developed without business groups or regional governments which will have to monitor compliance.
Among the most critical has been Madrid’s regional leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso, a rising star on the political right who has vowed to challenge the measures in Spain’s Constitutional Court.
Ayuso said that her government would not comply with the new measures because the plan ‘scares away tourism’ and ’causes darkness and sadness’.
The government unveiled details of the energy saving measures in May as part of an EU-wide effort to cut dependence on Russia for oil and gas following its February invasion of Ukraine. [Click here for all our reports related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.]
The European Commission is planning to cut EU dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end its reliance on Russian supplies of the fuel before 2030.
Spain barely uses Russian gas itself, but by reducing energy use the government hopes to free up gas Madrid normally buys from countries other than Russia for nations trying to wean themselves off Russian supplies.