Spain starts energy savings plan due to Russia’s “threats” to cut gas supplies

Spain set a maximum air-conditioning temperature of 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 Fahrenheit) in stores and many public indoor settings starting Wednesday, as an energy savings law took effect in light of Russia’s “threats” to interrupt natural gas supply to Western Europe.

“Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the threats of a partial or total interruption of natural gas supply from Russia to the European Union have been more frequent,” according to Spain’s official state bulletin on August 2, which published the energy savings law.

The energy savings plan aims to reduce demand for gas and oil in Spain by 5 percent in the short term, and expand the use of green energy sources, said a government statement on August 1.

European Union member states, including Spain, agreed to a “voluntary reduction of natural gas demand by 15 percent this winter,” the EU said in a statement on July 26.

The air conditioning maximum of 27C applies to department stores and smaller shops, hotel lobbies, cinemas, theaters, airports, train stations and government buildings, under the law approved by Spain’s Socialist government earlier this month.

The new law takes effect as maximum temperatures in many parts of country this week are expected to be around 35C (95F), following Spain’s hottest July in over 60 years, the national weather service said.

Stores are also required to turn off their showcase window lighting at 10 p.m., when government buildings also have to shut off decorative exterior lighting.

Spanish media reported that the country’s largest department store chain turned off its showcase lights at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, just before the law took effect.

The Madrid regional government, run by the main conservative party, blasted the rules as “arbitrary and authoritarian” and unconstitutional.

It complained that the Socialist government’s law will make Madrid the only European capital to turn off its store showcase lights by 10 p.m.

The new law also requires stores with street access to have doors that can easily close, including automatically, so that they don’t remain open and waste energy while using air conditioning or heating, said Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera, adding they would have to comply by September 30.

A representative for Madrid small shop owners told Spain’s SER radio that the requirement would be costly for his sector, at an estimated 12,000 Euros ($12,290) per shop.

The new law will limit winter heating temperatures to a maximum of 19C (66.2F) in the same public spaces where the maximum of 27C air conditioning rules apply in summer. The law will be in effect until October 1, 2023, the government said.

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