Spain Rations Ice and Cracks Down on Air Conditioning During Extreme Heatwave

Spain’s government has announced a flurry of new measures to reduce energy consumption and lower the country’s dependence on Russian oil and gas, while supermarkets try to prevent ice shortages.
spain heatwave ice
A man carries a fan in Seville during a recent period of extreme heat. Photo: Eduardo Briones/Europa Press via Getty Images

Spain has announced new measures to save energy and lower the country’s reliance on Russian oil and gas as Europe swelters in extreme heat, including limits on heating and air conditioning as well as telling shops to turn their lights off at night.

This week, a decree was published in the official state gazette mandating that air conditioning in public places must be set at or above 27 degrees Celsius (around 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and that the doors of buildings using it should be closed to conserve energy when air conditioning or heating is on. Meanwhile some shops and bars have begun to ration ice, limiting customers to two bags of ice per day.

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The measures have been announced as Spain enters another heatwave, barely weeks after its last period of extreme heat.

Under the government plans, heating will also have a new limit of no higher than 19 degrees Celsius. While the rules are mandatory in all bars, cinemas, theatres, airports, shops and train stations, it has been recommended that Spanish households may also consider implementing these new guidelines. 

Monuments and decorative lighting on the front of buildings, including lights in shop windows, will need to be switched off at 10PM. The rules will remain in force until November 2023 – but not everyone seems to have agreed to them.

Madrid regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso tweeted that “Madrid isn’t going to switch off.” 

Her vice president then confirmed that Madrid would be complying with the new laws while appealing them.

The minister of economic development in the Basque Country’s regional government, Arantxa Tapia, said the measures were “gimmicky” and that the region is following its own measures, which it says are in line with what Europe is asking for.

Other regions are complying, albeit begrudgingly – the president of the Xunta de Galicia, Alfonso Rueda, called the measures “pure propaganda” but added, “if the government wants to save money, it should set an example and reduce its structure, which is huge and involves a lot of expense.”

On top of the government’s measures, some companies have started rationing products amidst Europe’s current heatwave. Consum supermarkets announced that it is now rationing customers to two bags of ice a day in order to prevent shortages.

In the UK – where Spain is the most popular tourist destination and around 400,000 citizens have relocated to – the press reacted by warning people they could be left sweating and sweltering with the new rules.

But Spain isn’t the only country to bring in energy-saving measures. France has already said it would fine air-conditioned businesses €750 (about £630) if they have both their doors open and their air conditioning on, and cities in Germany are imposing cold showers at municipal swimming pools and sports halls.