This first week of June 2021 has become one of the most complex for homes and companies on account of the new daylight hours. The head of the Government responsible for energy competences, Teresa Ribera (Madrid, 1969), has insisted that it is not necessary to get up at two in the morning to save. But the new receipt has arrived just when electricity prices are at almost the highest levels of the whole year.
Despite the jokes with the washing machine at five in the morning, the vice president is clear that the new sections will serve to save if households change some habits. But at the same time it puts the magnifying glass on the companies in the sector on which, it considers, a weight should fall in this transition towards the energy model full of renewables. That is why he defends the reduction of the income received by the owners of nuclear and hydroelectric plants approved this week by the Council of Ministers. Its profits “cannot grow at the expense” of the consumer who is paying more.
– Citizens have been confused for a week between the schedules and a price of electricity that has not stopped rising.
-It is about them paying less if they pay attention to the hours they consume. We can make small movements that allow us to save money. There is a small part that does not have special difficulty, such as remembering which hours are the most affordable, and that has positive returns on the bill.
In addition, my recommendation is to pay attention to the offers that may come to you these days from companies, because the usual thing is that these free rates cost more than the regulated one, although these may be more volatile on a day-to-day basis. We should not be carried away by the anxiety of these changes without understanding what we are doing. Everyone who hires the rate they want, but who knows well and assumes what they are offering.
–In the end, it leaves the responsibility in the hands of the citizen.
–There is a part that wants to be responsible consumers. And others assume that we have to move our system towards a more efficient one. There were hours when the network was more collapsed and others more empty. For this reason, we have to have the networks dimensioned for peak times. If we all kept our schedules, we would have to scale the network more, with much more infrastructures.
“You only need small daily gestures to save with the new bill”
-But families cannot change all their customs …
–If they make small movements and take advantage of digitization, as with a programmer, we can help reduce the overall bill for society and for each one of us. Until now we had a rate in which everything was paid for without discriminating consumption. Today we propose that if a smarter use is made there is a plus, because that will be reflected in the invoice.
–With these sections, is Spain a guinea pig compared to what the rest of Europe will do?
– For a long time what has been talked about is managing demand so that it is in line with the offer that can be done at the lowest possible cost. With the three colors of schedules it is easy for us to know that before breakfast or after lunch or when I go to sleep or on the weekend, everything is cheaper.
–To curl the curl, the new receipt arrives with energy costs at maximum. It seems that the Government only acts when the receipt is triggered.
-That is not right. We have worked to bring about structural change, as with the just transition to shut down coal; auctions to incorporate renewables, the elimination of the sun tax. At the end of last year we took the first step to create the Sustainability Fund, so that all forms of energy contribute to the financing of the historical costs of the deployment of renewables, involving gas and oil in those charges.
– What is the response to the cut of 1,000 million to hydroelectric and nuclear power plants?
–We have lived a time in which thanks to the entry of renewables and self-consumption and the fall in demand last year, there is a reasonable price range, from June 2018 to January this year. Now we are seeing that price signals, which we cannot control because they are international costs such as CO2 or natural gas, raise the cost.
We are concerned that this will end up consolidating at the expense of consumers for the full benefit of the owners of these plants, not only already highly amortized, but they never ever had to consider that there could be a price of CO2 from which they would benefit in their results accounts.
“All electricity companies know that the volume of electrification will increase, and so will their business”
– These companies, and investors, are suspicious of the change.
We have proposed the solution most similar to the one supported by the European Justice to ensure that there is no distortion in the European market and in the energy market, so that part of this dividend redounds to consumers and not only to the income statement of these companies. .
– Will this measure end up benefiting the final consumer?
–This measure will cause an automatic reduction in the bill for all consumers. Because immediately after it is approved, it will cause the charge structure to be revised for the benefit of consumers, except for 10% that will go to the vulnerable with the social bonus.
In the same way that we have understood that one part of the energy transition has to be fair to workers, there is another that must be fair to citizens. Consumers cannot be the ‘paganini’ in a transition that is very beneficial in the end, but which can now generate regressive distortions, with great benefits for companies with a notable increase at the expense of a consumer such as the domestic or industrial .
– Has the good relationship between companies and the Government been broken?
–A ministerial officer has to listen and have a good relationship with all the actors. And what you must watch out for is the public interest. My relationship is very correct and positive. The electricity companies, all of them, know that the volume of electricity that we are going to require is going to increase in the coming years. And your business too. And they know that this cannot be at the expense of consumers.
It is logical that they try to maximize their profits. But I am also confident that if the accounts and dividends in their strategic plans were already sufficient and good a year and a half ago, in this scenario they also continue to be so despite this measure.
“If before they had the accounts to maintain the activity, now with these prices, more”
– The nuclear companies have already announced that they could accelerate their closure because they are not profitable.
“This is a first angry reaction.” Because when CO2 was at 20 euros per ton, and the market at 50 euros / mwh, the accounts came out when they agreed on the closing schedule. And that explains that now, with many more resources, those accounts keep coming out. It’s actually a ‘I prefer to keep winning more than just winning’. In any case, it is very legitimate for them to make allegations.
– Are you in favor of removing taxes from the electricity bill?
– There is a legitimate debate on what is the tax burden of electricity. But there is another tricky question: it cannot be said that in order to lower the bill, the part that is redistributive, such as taxes, is reduced, while I continue to keep my profits as a company intact.
In fact, the European Commission also plans to review the energy products directive that comes from 1996. This, in any case, is part of the substantive debate that is taking place in parallel in the Treasury with the entire tax system. We are not particularly in favor of suspending or reducing taxes in a patchy way, but we want to do a joint exercise.
– When is the social bond going to be reformed so that it is much more effective?
– What we have done has been to maintain everything that had increased the people who had those benefits. But it is true that our impression is that the most dramatic cases do not surface. There are very few requests from families at risk of exclusion because their concerns, those of those families, are elsewhere.