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Spain orders temperature limits for businesses in sweeping energy saving decree

Spain’s government ordered all businesses to limit their temperatures and told shops to turn their lights off at night as the country scrambles to save energy ahead of this winter.

Air conditioning cannot be lowered below 27 degrees in summer and heating cannot exceed 19C this winter, while shop fronts must go dark by 10 p.m., according to the decree passed Monday.

Similar measures have already been put in place for public administration buildings, while they remain voluntary for households for now.

“The world is upside down, we have a war in Europe,” Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said on Tuesday.

“[This is] a special effort at an extraordinary time,” she added, stressing that the measures were designed to show the country’s “unity and solidarity” with its European partners.

Spain said the move would help it in the country achieve its goal of reducing gas consumption by 7 percent — in line with pledges it made last week as part of a wider EU deal that aims to tamp down gas demand ahead of winter amid the looming energy crunch sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

EU energy ministers last week agreed on a deal that could enforce mandatory, bloc-wide gas rationing in case of winter supply shortages — and to voluntarily reduce gas demand by 15 percent by March.

Madrid opposed the initial Commission proposal, with Ribera leading a coalition of mostly Southern European countries against the plan on the grounds that it did not adequately take into account differing national energy mixes, trade connections and levels of reliance on Russian gas.

Unlike many other EU member countries, Spain has a limited dependence on Russian gas, with only 10.5 percent of imports coming from Moscow in 2020. Natural gas made up just under one-quarter of Spain’s energy mix in the same year.

Monday’s initiative gives businesses seven days to adapt to the new measures, which could be relaxed in cases of extreme temperatures and will be in place until November 2023. The government is also expected to launch a broader energy contingency and savings plan in September.

But not everyone is happy with the plans.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Community of Madrid and a rising force in the conservative Popular Party, said the law would not be applied in the Spanish capital.

“Madrid will not shut down,” she said. “This [decree] generates insecurity and scares off tourism and consumption. It causes darkness, poverty, sadness.”

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