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Salamanca, tariffs, rapid action and electricians

Back in the summer there was a bit of an ooh aah about electricity prices here. The poor old generators and distributors said they were on their uppers - giving the stuff away, it was so bad they were wondering about retiring to their yachts in the Caribbean. One of the biggest complaints from the consumers who need to heat and power their homes was that the generators wanted to scrap the cheap "off peak" rate. And, to be honest, with my imperfect Spanish I thought that is what had happened.

In winter it gets a bit parky in Spain. Back in Alicante with marble and tiles everywhere, with draughts blowing under doors and windows, even in the sort of temperatures that would seem mild in a UK winter, our house felt like the inside of a fridge. That's because everyone reckons Alicante is warm so the houses are designed to deal with the heat; not with the cold.

In Salamanca it's different. People expect ice and freezing winds in winter so the houses are built for it. Our rented flat has wooden floors, double glazing and electric storage heater heating.

I've always thought the electric bills for the flat were high and I suspected the culprits were the storage heaters. I presumed that things would get worse now the off peak rate had gone. But our landlord said that the off peak rate hadn't gone, indeed since June or July there had been a new tarrif that actually extended the number of off peak hours from 7 to 14! So much for my grasp of current affairs. Last week someone turned up from the electric company to adjust the timers that click the system from one rate to the other. A leisurely four or five months since the rate change. In the meantime our electric company had been using a percentage calculation to charge for electric.

The extended hours caused a problem though. The storage heaters are tied into the off peak rate and kick in when the electric becomes cheaper. That had worked for years and years with the off peak rates from midnight to seven in the morning; 7 hours. But now the heaters came on for 14 hours. Our electric consumption shot up. We talked to the landlord and he sent an electrician to sort the problem.

The electrician needed the heaters to be cold to work on them. We were asked to to switch them off 24 hours before he came. Last night was the coldest night so far this year. Minus temperatures all over Spain. Murphy or what?


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