To conserve energy and to reduce pollution, a new law is now in effect that prevents air conditioners from cooling below 80 degrees during the summer and prevents furnaces heating temperatures above 66 in cooler months in Spain. The new law, the first of its kind in Europe, and perhaps the world, lays out a series of measures to save energy and use it more efficiently, which according to the decree, “are urgent and necessary when it comes to reducing energy consumption in general, and reducing…dependence on energy outside the Spanish economy.”
The law, effective this week, remains in effect through to the end of November 2023. The law targets public buildings and commercial spaces, such as airports, bars, restaurants, rail stations, shopping centers, and theaters. While the law doesn’t apply to peoples’ homes at this time, authorities are encouraging residents to mirror the commercial policies in their homes.
The new law is being attacked by an upset and angry population that believe the government isn’t doing enough to establish energy security. Like the rest of the European Union that gets most of its natural gas from Russia, Spain has agreed to trim energy consumption by at least 7% to lower their dependence on Russia, which is fighting Ukraine in a regional war.
Conservative, right-wing groups are against the measure. Isabel Diaz Ayuso, the President of the Madrid region, said she will refuse to enforce the law in Madrid. Ayuso Tweeted that Madrid wouldn’t participate in the law, adding that “this generates insecurity and scares away tourism and consumption. It causes darkness, poverty, sadness, while the Government covers up the question: what savings are you going to apply to yourself?”
Due to the push-back, Spain announced some tweaks to the law. First, a list of establishments that will be exempt from the law has been published; they include schools, universities, and hospitals. Bars, restaurants, and specific shops will also be able to use air conditioning down to 77, a few degrees colder than the 80 degrees minimum mandated elsewhere. Restaurants continue to complain, saying they usually keep thermostats as low as 65 to keep kitchen and wait staff cool and patrons comfortable.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is urging people to dress more casually to stay cool, urging men to ditch ties. “I’m not wearing a tie,” Sanchez told reporters. “This means that we can all save energy as well. I have asked ministers and all civil servants, and I would also like to appeal to the private sector, if they have not already done so, not to wear ties when it is not necessary,” he added.
While the focus is on air conditioning now during peak summer months, people are starting to express concern about the heating limits set for the winter, saying that the 66 degree limit is too cold for traditional workplaces.
In addition to adjusting to reduced energy consumption due to the conflict in Ukraine, Spain hopes these efforts will improve the local weather and climate. “I want to make something very clear,” Sanchez said. “Climate change kills; it kills people, as we’ve seen; it also kills our ecosystem, our biodiversity, and it destroys the things we as a society hold dear -our houses, our businesses, and our livestock.”