After months of assuring that the energy situation in Spain was not as critical as in central and eastern European countries due to its lower dependence on Russian gas, the Government officially joined this Thursday in warning of the risk that the next winter there is no enough gas to supply everyone and having to choose between businesses and homes to ensure supply. The Third Vice President and Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, has stressed in Congress the need to “strengthen national contingency plans and savings policies and to propose measures for the hypothetical case that it is necessary to prioritize among consumers the provision of energetic resources”.
Ribera has described the energy situation as “worrying” after the continued cut in the gas that Gazprom sends to the EU after Germany has raised its alert level and the three main French energy companies have asked the French to ” minimize your consumption from now on”.
“Although better stopped, [Spain] cannot neglect its response and works so that this hypothesis never materializes,” Ribera warned in an appearance before Congress after participating this week in Brussels in meetings of energy and energy ministers. environment, where Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson issued a similar warning a few days ago. “Things are likely to be more difficult in the coming months,” said the commissioner, who heads a department that envisions various scenarios, including worst of all, a total Russian gas cut-off that leaves Europe without enough energy. In July, the European Commission will present a plan of saving measures energy to the Member States, which at the moment Spain only applies to public offices.
To prepare, the EU countries will have to reach 90% of the capacity of their natural gas stores by October 31 “to spend the winter with peace of mind.” Ribera has assured Congress that, “at the moment, the underground warehouses in Spain are at 72% and those of liquefied natural gas, around 80%”, figures “hugely positive compared to France (57%), Italy (55%) and Germany (42%).
However, Ribera has not reassured the groups with these numbers, who have repeatedly asked him if “there will be gas to spend the winter and at what price “, according to Joan Capdevila (ERC), or if the Government will have to adopt “rationing measures “of gas, in the words of Albert Botrán, of the CUP. Ribera has not answered directly and, in turn, has left another question in the air, about how to choose who to supply energy in case it is not enough for everyone.
“In addition to conventional measures to substitute some providers for others, in terms of savings and efficiency or reduction in demand, we must also think about what would happen if we had to prioritize access to resources in favor of one use or another,” he said. raised the vice president. “We are convinced that Spain’s position is safer [than that of other countries] and that we have to face a question of prices, but it is also essential to be prepared for circumstances that may become more complicated in the coming months,” he added. The Government awaits the proposal that the Commission will make next month while it prepares its own.
The situation of the Spanish gas reserves has not avoided criticism such as that of the PP and Ciudadanos for the lack of foresight in storage that they already warned that would be necessary after the storm Filomena, in January 2021.
“When Filomena, we told her to increase the gas reserves and she did nothing. She says that we have reached 80%. At what price have we bought and at what price would we have bought if we had had 20-year contracts at the time?” the deputy of the PP, Guillermo Mariscal, snapped.
Sense of State and criticism
Ribera has described the energy situation in Spain and the rest of Europe as “worrying” and has agreed with groups such as ERC in diagnosing that it will not end in the short term. For this reason, he has asked Congress for “a sense of the State to protect consumers, the middle classes and the productive sectors to distribute the effort in an equitable way to deploy the ecological transition.” “If before it was urgent for climatic reasons, today it is for economic and social justice reasons.”
The parliamentary debate, however, has followed very different paths to the closing of ranks that the vice president has demanded. The groups have criticized the Government’s lack of “foresight ” in energy matters or the “ideology” and ” eco fundamentalism ” that guide Ribera’s management, for insisting on the closure of nuclear power plants or for refusing to reactivate coal as they are doing other European countries.
The vice president appeared in principle to talk about the limit on the price of gas at the request of the PP and Ciudadanos, but criticism has also come up for the high energy prices that the Government has not been able to lower, with repeated warnings that in the next weeks the liter of fuel will reach three euros. Or the tax on energy companies prepared by the Government on the extraordinary profits of energy companies has once again been an element of contention between Ribera and United We Can, the other partner of the Government. “You have to do it now,” the purple spokesman, Pablo Echenique, has exhorted him.
Also the lurches of the Government in relation to the drop in VAT on electricity, which on Saturday was reduced from 10 to 5%. “Among those who have been deceived by Sánchez is you, who last week said that the tax cut was a cosmetic measure,” Mari Carmen Martínez, from Cs, told him. “You tell us that we have to have a sense of State, do we support a decree with measures that you have said are useless?”, She has asked.
Discreet gas limit effect
Ribera has assured that despite a start in which all the circumstances were against it – a heat wave, no wind energy and little photovoltaic energy, and the price of gas that continues to rise – the limit on the price of gas “has shown be effective to at least at least reduce prices”, which have been lower than those paid by other European countries. In this sense, he has considered it “a practical test that can be applied to the rest of Europe”, which has before it a reform of the electricity market.
“We have gone from similar prices to significantly lower prices day by day, the average in the wholesale market without adjustment in the second half [of June] has been 45 to 55% lower than in Germany, France, or Italy,” he said. Ribera, without adding average compensation of the order of 100 euros more.
For the opposition, the Iberian exception has fallen far short of the expectations of savings on the electricity bill or is producing what the deputy of JxCat Pilar Calvo has called the ” payoff effect”, due to the electricity that Spain exports to France through subsidized price in Spain.
“We have been exporting energy to France every day, we are subsidizing the French economy. If they continue, we are going to end up subsidizing the French by 1,500 million. You make it easier for Spain to send between three and four million euros to the French every day,” he said. denounced Mariscal, about exports that generate congestion income that, according to the mechanism of the Iberian exception, also contributes to the compensation of electricity companies for the difference between the price of gas and the established limit. Ribera has also pointed out that since January of this year Spain has exported more electricity to France than it has imported, except in February, disassociating it from the gas price cap, which came into force in mid-June.
In one sense and the other, the groups have also denounced the mechanism of the gas cap in terms of who it affects. At the moment, only those who have a regulated rate, also pay compensation to electricity companies. According to the design of the mechanism, free market customers will be incorporated into the system as they renew their annual contracts and Ribera has assured that the effect of the gas cap is already noticeable in term contracts.
However, Mariscal, for the PP, has reproached him that ” only a third of consumers are going to pay the extra cost “, while “those who are in the long term are going to be surprised that those who signed a year they will find when they go to renew that you have raised the bill”. For his part, Echenique has demanded that the vice president eliminate the obligation to stay and the sanctions for breaking it in electricity contracts in the liberalized market so that consumers can switch to the regulated market, which at the moment is the only one that notices the cap on the price of gas.