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Spain’s parliament approves energy saving plan

Spain’s parliament on Thursday approved the minority government’s energy-saving rules which include limits on air-conditioning use as part of an EU-wide effort to reduce reliance on Russian gas.

Lawmakers voted 187 to 161 in favour of the decree, which came into effect on August 10 but needed the green light of the assembly to remain in force.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority coalition government lacks a working majority in parliament but it managed to pass the rules with the support of smaller regional parties.

Under the government decree, air conditioning must be turned down and set at no lower than 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) during the warmest months of the year, in rules affecting everything from public transport to shops, offices, theatres and cinemas.

The new rules do not apply to home air conditioning, although people are encouraged to consume less energy domestically.

During the summer months, temperatures across Spain often hit 40C or higher.

The legislation also affects heating in winter, when temperatures can be set no higher than 19C.

The decree also requires that from 10:00 pm (2000 GMT), shops switch off window-display lighting in a move also affecting the illumination of public buildings.

By the end of September, any air-conditioned or heated premises must have an automatic door-closing mechanism installed to avoid energy waste.

The main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) voted against the measures, calling many of them “improvised” and harmful for the economy.

It also complains the new rules were developed without business groups or regional governments which will have to monitor compliance.

Among the most critical has been Madrid’s regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso, a rising star on the political right who has vowed to challenge the measures in Spain’s Constitutional Court.

“Madrid will not switch off,” she said earlier this month in a tweet.

– Free train travel –

The government unveiled details of the energy saving measures in May as part of an EU-wide effort to cut dependence on Russia for oil and gas following its February invasion of Ukraine.

The European Commission is planning to cut EU dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end its reliance on Russian supplies of the fuel before 2030.

While Spain does not rely on Russian gas, the government argues the measures show solidarity with the rest of Europe and will help free up gas from

Spain barely uses Russian gas itself, but by reducing energy use the government hopes to free up gas Madrid normally buys from countries other than Russia for nations trying to wean themselves off Russian supplies.

Transport Minister Raquel Sanchez said Europe needed “solidarity and responsibility” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“That is what the Spanish government is doing,” she told reporters after parliament approved the measures.

To boost the chances that parliament would back the energy saving measures, they were included in a omnibus bill which included other popular measures such as free commuter rail travel.

All commuter trains run by national rail operator Renfe will be free for four months from September 1 to help people cope with rising fuel prices.

Some 400,000 people have already signed up for the free travel pass, the government said Thursday.