How to connect to utilities in Barcelona
Explorer Publishing guides you through the process of setting up basic utilities – electricity, gas, water and waste disposal – in Barcelona.
Utilities deregulation in Barcelona in 2003 put an end to the monopoly held by electricity distributor Fecsa Endesa and gas distributor Gas Natural.
Since then, consumers are allowed more options and can either choose between annual fixed tariffs or opt for the new, ‘free-market’ packages with variable rates. Newer companies such as Iberdrola also offer combined gas and electricity deals.
Water here is supplied exclusively by Aigues de Barcelona (Grupo Agbar). Shortages are rare in the city, though water bills are among the highest in Spain.
It’s common practice in Barcelona for landlords of small apartments to pay water bills. Some landlords ‘incorporate’ electricity and/or gas into the rent too.
Most contracts allow landlords to increase the rent a little every year, but only in line with inflation. If rises exceed this, and the reason is increased utilities bills, you should demand to see those bills over a preceding period.
If you are the owner of a new house, and the electricity has not been installed or connected, you will need to phone Fecsa customer services (atención al cliente) on 90 250 77 50 (English spoken on request).
You will need the following documents from the seller or constructor: Certificado de Instalación de Baja Tensión (this may also be called the Boletín de Instalaciones Eléctricas) and the Documento de Primera Ocupación.
You may also be asked for the Cédula de Habitabilidad, a document that confirms a space is fit for habitation. If you do not have this, you can fill a form out atwww.cedulahabitabilidad.com , and an inspector will be sent. Fees vary from EUR 130 to EUR 200, depending on the size of the apartment.
If the apartment you have bought or rent is already supplied with electricity, you only need to change the name of the account, la titularidad, to your own.
Do note that it’s often quicker to fill out forms on company web sites. To do this, you’ll have to register for their clients’ area, the oficina virtual or area de cliente, which provides you with a username and password.
- Fecsa Endesa: 90 250 77 50, www.endesa.es
- Gas Natural: 90 225 03 65, www.gasnatural.com
- Iberdrola: 90 120 20 20, www.iberdrola.es
Spain’s growing love affair with home air conditioning causes huge surges in demand every summer. Every degree below 25 you demand from your air-con unit requires an extra 8 percent of energy. The only other domestic appliance in your flat which will probably consume more electricity is the refrigerator.
Bills are usually sent every two months. Amounts vary, and will depend on your choice of company, consumption levels, and whether you opt for fixed tarif, known as tarifa regulada, or free-market tarif, usually called tarifa libre.
It will also depend on whether you have mains gas, and if you want to combine gas and electricity with the same company.
There is a useful energy calculator (calculadora) on Fecsa’s website which will help you work out your electrical energy needs in megawatts, and your likely consumption (megawatt hours). Armed with this information, you can then shop around for the right deal.
Using the tarifa regulada as a benchmark, the average Spanish household falls into the three to five megawatt band, generating two-monthly bills of around EUR 60, including VAT and charges. Heftier bills can round out to EUR 80 for two months.
Aigues de Barcelona, the water concession here, estimate a one-child family in an average flat consumes 12 cubic metres of water a month, for which they are billed just more than EUR 18.
Compared to the rest of Spain, Barcelona has high water bills. Connection can be arranged by phoning atención al cliente on 900 710 710. You’ll need your NIE (Numero de Identificación de Extranjeros), your sale or rental contract (contrato de compra o alquiler), the Cédula de Habitabilidad (see explanation for this in Electricity, above) and your bank details.
On signing the contract, you should get water within four days. A connection fee of EUR 50 will be charged to your first bill. Bills are sent out every three months.
While it’s perfectly safe to drink, tap-water in Barcelona has a famously unpleasant taste.
The general wisdom is that the cafe solos in bars here are made as strong as possible to mask the chemical tang.
Bottled water is not seen as a luxury item, and many people buy eight-litre kegs from supermarkets, costing anywhere between EUR 1 and EUR 2.
If you do not have mains gas already, you will have to install the unit by calling out a registered installation engineer (instalador autorizado).
Once a certificate has been issued, it will automatically be registered with Gas Natural, regardless of which company you then opt for.
Phone the local Catalan body (Ferca; 93 453 69 06) for details of the nearest certified engineers to your neighbourhood.
Costs vary, but typically include a EUR 30 callout fee and EUR 65 an hour for the inspection itself, after which the technician will quote you the actual installation cost.
There is an additional charge of around EUR 120, which covers both the production of the certificado (sometimes called a boletín), and registering the new unit with Gas Natural. You may also need to present your Cedula de Habitabilidad.
Again, gas bills vary, and will depend on your gas/electricity combination, whether you opt for the fixed tarif, known as tarifa regulada, or the free-market tarif, tarifa libre. Gas Natural provide the table here as a guide, based on the governmnet-fixed tarifa regulada (prices per month, excluding VAT).
Some households opt for butane bottles for cooking, especially in the city centre. The main supplier in Barcelona is Repsol Butano (90 110 01 00), which offers a package of delivery and maintenance.
Barcelona is on mains drainage, linked to an intricate sewage system 1,596 kilometers in length. This is under the control of the Barcelona municipality (Ajuntament de Barcelona).
Rubbish disposal and recycling
Rubbish collection in metropolitan Barcelona is the job of the Ajuntament.
Every street or block is assigned one or several large grey dumper bins (contenedores). These are placed on the street, and rubbish is collected every night from around 10pm.
The Ajuntament is encouraging domestic recycling, distributing terylene bags to each household, all labelled in Catalan. Green is for glass (vidre); yellow for plastic packaging and cans (envasos i llaunes); and blue for paper. These colour codes relate to the recycling bins scattered throughout every neighbourhood.
Large unwanted items, such as old furniture, will be taken away for free by the Ajuntament. There are set days for this service in every district. Call the city helpline on 010 to find out when this is.
Refrigerators, air conditioning units, ashes or organic waste can be left at Punts Verds, found in various fixed points across the city. The Ajuntament is committed to disposing ecologically of items left here. Phone 010 to find out where the nearest Punt Verd is.
The Ajuntament is not bound by law to encourage recycling, but the advantages are obvious. They get the returns on recycled material, but also reduce the density of waste: one tonne of rubbish destined for landfill costs from EUR 30 to EUR 36 to process.
Reprinted with permission of Explorer Publishing from the Barcelona Complete Residents' Guide on April 2009.
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