Monday, 30 November 2009

Spain turns down the air conditioning to save power

Graham Keeley in Madrid
Spaniards and holidaymakers sweltering in the summer heat might not be too impressed, but desperate times — and a deep recession — call for desperate measures. The Spanish Cabinet agreed yesterday to reduce energy consumption by limiting the use of air conditioning.
Madrid has decided to establish minimum and maximum temperatures for public buildings and thus shops, bars, airports, cinemas, railway stations and airports cannot be cooled below 26C (79F) in summer. During winter, moreover, heaters cannot be turned up above 21C.
The Economic Sustainability Law is designed to reduce Spain’s overreliance on imported energy, but this may not figure highly in the priorities of anyone gasping for breath in August.
It is not the only new direction taken by Spain as it seeks a path to better economic times: under new rules, banks and all publicly listed companies will have to disclose how much they pay their leading executives. Elena Salgado, the Economy Minister, said: “There will be more transparency, particularly in terms of top executives’ pay.” Shareholders should vote on executive pay at banks and listed companies at annual shareholder meetings, she said.

After a decade-long building boom, Spain is mired in its worst recession in decades. Unemployment stands at nearly 18 per cent, double the European Union average, and while the broader eurozone has climbed out of recession, Spain is not projected to do so until at least 2010.
The thrust of the reform is to try to wean Spain off its dependence on bricks and mortar and to introduce a more sustainable model of growth. Thus José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, the Prime Minister, unveiled a ten-year plan to revamp the economy. A cornerstone of the new Bill will be greater investment in renewable energy, something that Mr Zapatero is known to favour over the nuclear power option. During the past five years, Spain’s Socialist Government has invested heavily in solar, wind and hydroelectric power.
Mr Zapatero has hinted that his Government may not renew the licences of old nuclear power stations, a move that has provoked opposition from within the nuclear industry and from the conservative Opposition.