Adolfo Ruiz’s electricity bill for August came as a shock. In July he had paid 1,200 euros for his restaurant in Malaga, but just one month later the bill had more than doubled, to nearly 3,200. “I thought it must be a mistake, but the company told me it was a government tax and it couldn’t do anything about it,” he told SUR.
According to the electricity companies, this new ‘tax’ is a result of the cap on the price of gas. Although that measure was introduced to reduce energy bills, for the hospitality sector and others it has made them much more expensive. The government decided to pay the companies the difference between the real cost and the capped price, and this is included as an extra on consumers’ electricity bills unless they are on a fixed-price contract dating from before 26 April 2022.
For business owners like Ruiz, it is a major problem. “It’s going to cost me between 15,000 and 20,000 euros until the end of the year; that’s someone’s salary,” he said.
Óscar Moreno, owner of the Aldente group from Granada, had to pay an extra 2,540 euros in August and if things continue like this “we’re not going to make it to Christmas,” he said. The electricity bills for the group’s nine restaurants are about 60,000 euros a month. “It’s not sustainable,” he complained.
The Mahos association for Malaga hospitality businesses said the massive increase in electricity bills has hit companies in the sector hard and there is little they can do about it. By the nature of their business, they have no choice but to use electricity at the most expensive times of day.
However, Germán Renau, the PSOE party’s spokesman on Energy, has defended the government’s measures in an article in which he accused the electricity companies of “manipulating” and “cheating” their clients.
“Consumers are paying between 15% and 20% less than they would be if the cap on the gas price had not been introduced,” he insisted. He said the companies are making it look as if the extra charge is making their bills more expensive, but in fact the cost of the electricity used plus the compensation for the companies comes to less than the energy would have cost without the cap on the gas price.
The OCU Consumers Union appeared to agree, saying that the companies that operate on the free market “are not being transparent in their communications,” because the cap on the gas price “reduces the bill by about 10-15%, although what is actually does is moderate the increase because prices have continued to rise”.