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Inka Piegsa-Quischotte: Crazy heat, utility bills have Spain’s expats hot and bothered

Spain is in the grip of one of the biggest heat waves in many years. A new record was set in Cordoba on Saturday 14 July with a temperature of 47 C and that was at 5.15 pm! Dominic Roye, a climate scientist at the University of Santiago de Compostela said that the heat wave that brought soaring temperatures and thick dust from the Sahara Desert shows no sign of abating any time soon.

Most vulnerable are older people, the sick, young kids and, yes, dogs too. For this group, the heat isn’t only uncomfortable; it can be fatal. As my expat friend Tom from Ireland said: ” have two little dogs, they are hiding under the bed, don’t want to go out and I have to let the fan run day and night to blow some cooler air in their direction. Don’t want them to die from heat stroke.”

So, people try to stay cool, go out as little as possible, cool down in the sea if they happen to live by the beach, drink plenty to avoid dehydration and keep their homes cool by running AC and fans.

Rising energy costs

That brings us to the second reason why expats (and everybody else for that matter) are groaning: It’s not only the temperatures that are soaring, it’s the price of electricity too.

These three companies have the lion share of supplying households with electricity: Endesa, Iberdrola and Naturgy. Over the last week alone, the price has risen five times. The reason why this happens and how the prices are passed on to the consumer is very well explained in the recent post on EL Pais, “Keys to understanding the rising cost of electricity in Spain.”

Expats who are living on their pension are rightly groaning about the rising costs and the apparent inability of the government to do anything about it. But it’s not only pensioners who are affected, it’s those who run small businesses too.

Hairdresser Emma from Scotland says:

It was bad enough when I had to close my salon for months on end because of the pandemic. Now that I start making a living again, I have to cope with rising electricity costs too because I have to run AC all the time to make my customers comfortable. Imagine sitting in the steam of a blow dryer in a salon that is already hot. And no way can I pass the extra cost on to my customers.

The same applies to owners of cafes or small shops. Pensioners and business people alike find it difficult to cope.

Limited options

As far as households are concerned there are a few things that can be done short-term to save energy:

• First measure of all is not to run any appliances like washing machines during peak hours. Let them rumble at night or at the crack of dawn.

• Next, switch off and unplug anything you don’t use. Make sure the red dot is OFF, because even if you switch off your lamp but leave the extension cord plugged in, electricity is consumed and the meter runs.

It’s not only the consumption that they are charged for on their electricity bill, but there are other items too, like the connections and VAT. Maria Jose Montero, Minister of Finances has announced that one step to alleviate the impact on consumers’ pockets is to reduce the current rate of value added tax to 10 percent from 21 percent.

It remains to be seen what other steps, if any, the government will or can take. In the meantime, heat wave and high prices continue, expats groan and do what they can to get through this aggravation.

After all, they have practice with all the pandemic problems they had to deal with for the past 18 months.

About the author:

Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel-and-lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits, among many other publications. After several years in Turkey, she now lives on Spain’s Costa Blanca.

See more of Inka’s work here.

Read more about Spain in our Dispatches archive here.

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