MADRID Scorching heat has caused power prices to soar in Spain, leading to renewed tensions in the country's leftist coalition government over how to lower ballooning electricity bills.
A recent heatwave which sent temperatures soaring as high as 47 degrees Celsius (117F) in the southern region of Andalusia caused demand for electricity to jump as people turned on their air conditioners, putting further pressure on power prices which were already high due to a global natural gas supply crunch.
"Everything indicates the month of August will end with the highest electricity bill in history," consumer rights group Facua said Tuesday. It predicts the average monthly household electricity bill this month will hit 92 euros ($107), a 44 percent increase over August 2020.
The jump in prices has largely offset the temporary reduction in the value-added tax (VAT) on electricity bills - to 10 percent from 21 percent - which Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's government introduced in July to provide relief to consumers.
Far-left party Podemos, the junior partner in Sanchez's coalition government, has accused the administration of not doing enough to cut power bills.
The government "must intervene in the power market and move towards a system of regulated prices," Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz, one of the co-leaders of the party and also the third highest-ranking member of the government, told the Ctxt magazine.
"All of this is due to a process of privatisations in the electricity sector... which has resulted in an oligopoly that has led to repeated price increases every year," she added.
Spain at the end of 2020 had the fifth-highest household electricity prices in the European Union after Germany, Denmark, Belgium and Ireland, according to Eurostat, the bloc's statistics office.
The country relies more heavily on natural gas to produce electricity than other European nations such as neighbouring France, which has a significant nuclear power sector, said Jordi Castilla, the spokesman for consumer group Facua.
Podemos has called for the government to issue a decree that imposes an "immediate" ceiling on power prices and has threatened to stage street protests over the issue, in a country where this question of energy poverty gets regular media attention.