If you’re living in Spain, here’s a guide to setting up basic utilities in Spain, including electricity, gas, water and waste disposal.
Once you’ve found your new home in Spain, you’ll need to set up all your basic utilities, although some Spanish rental properties may have certain utilities included in the monthly rent or already set-up from a previous owner.
Spanish waste disposal
Waste disposal in Spain is managed at municipal level. Most municipalities charge an annual fee for rubbish collection, which varies depending on which area you live. Costs are often reduced for those on low incomes, such as the elderly or unemployed. When you are setting up your utilities in Spain, check with your local town hall (ayuntamiento) about costs and payment options.
Although Spain does not have the recycling (reciclaje) levels for municipal waste found in some European countries, facilities have improved remarkably in recent years and most municipalities now recycle glass, paper, cardboard, aluminium, cans, plastic, batteries and other materials, although there are sometimes few collection points. Many municipalities also recycle garden waste, which is then sold as compost. Some municipalities publish leaflets detailing where and when to dump your household rubbish. Whatever the chosen models is, the streets of all Spanish municipalities have large-capacity containers to receive paper, cardboard and glass.
The way the service is provided varies between municipalities, with larger cities having more frequent and extensive collections than rural areas. Barcelona, for example, has a daily waste collection service carried out through street containers, door-to-door refuse bag collection, pneumatic collection boxes and bins for collection in shops. All residents also have recycling containers within 100 meters of their home – yellow for cans and cartons; green for glass; blue for paper and cardboard; brown for organic waste; and grey for other waste.
Electricity in Spain
Spain’s main electricity companies include Groupo Endesa (the largest), Iberdrola, Union Fenosa, and Hidrocantábrico. The energy market was completely liberalised in 2003 and clients can now choose which company provides their electricity. Note, however, that in many areas there’s still only one company providing electricity and unless you live in a large city, you still may not have a choice.
Here are some companies which provide electricity:
Getting connected to electricity in Spain
Immediately after buying or renting a property in Spain (unless utilities are included in the rent), one of the first things to do when setting up utilities in Spain is to make sure that the electricity is connected. If you are moving into a place where the connection is still live, you only need to think about which supplier you want to be with (see section below). If you don’t have electricity connected, you’ll need to contact the local distributor. The distribution company is different from the supply company as they are assigned by area, so you cannot choose who your distributor is. The distribution companies are the five big electricity providers listed above (Endesa, Iberdrola, EDP/HC, Union Fenosa, and Viesgo).
If you need to be connected, a technician from the distribution company in your area will visit your home to connect the electricity supply and install a supply capacity controller to regulate the contracted capacity.
If you have purchased a home in Spain, the estate agent may arrange for the utilities to be transferred to your name or go to the offices with you (no charge should be made for this service). Make sure all previous bills have been paid and that the contract is put into your name from the day you take over, otherwise you will be liable for debts left by the previous owner.
You will need to pay if you have to get electricity connected in your new home. Most of the charges are fixed across Spain no matter who your distributor is. These costs include:
- Mains connection charge to the grid of around €10.
- Access and extension connection charges.
- Inspection charge of around €8.
- Security deposit equal to the theoretical monthly billing for 50 hours of use of the contracted power.
- Meter costs. Spain is currently in the process of installing new electricity smart meters in every home. Installation is free but you will need to either pay monthly rental costs or buy a meter outright.
When you buy a community property, the cost of connection to utility services is included in the price of the property and it is illegal for developers to charge buyers extra for this. See our guide here for information on reducing your energy costs in Spain.
Choosing an electricity supplier
When setting up utilities in Spain, you’ll need to choose a supplier for electricity. If you’re taking on a property with power already connected and you don’t wish to switch suppliers, you simply need to contact the supplier (by phone or internet) and give them the details of the new person responsible for bill payment. If you want to switch supplier, it’s easily done. You just need to contact the company to which you wish to switch and give them:
- The name, Spanish tax number (NIF or NIE) and contact details of the person who will be the contract holder.
- The property address.
- The details of the bank account you wish to use to pay your bills.
- Your Unified Supply Point Code (CUPS) which is an alphanumeric code beginning with ES that can be found on your electricity bills or paperwork.
- Your electricity installation certificate, which all households must have to show that their electricity supply is safe and above board.
Spanish electricity tariffs
When shopping for a supplier, you can check the many tariffs that are offered by electricity suppliers in Spain. The Spanish market includes both a regulated tariff (known as the PVPC) and many tariffs available on the free market to suit different consumer types. See our guide to energy costs in Spain for more information and links to tariff comparison sites.
Electricity bills in Spain
Electricity bills can be paid in a number of ways. It’s advisable when setting up utilities in Spain to arrange to pay bills by direct debit (transferencia) from a Spanish bank account. If you own a holiday home in Spain, you can have your bills sent to an address abroad. The move to smart meters will eliminate estimated bills and the worries of paying for more than you’re using, although you should still keep an eye on what you’re paying and look for ways to reduce costs if you feel you’re paying too much.
If you don’t want to pay by direct debit, you can pay bills at a post office, local banks (listed on the bill) or at the electricity company’s office (in cash).
Spanish power supply
The electricity supply in most of Spain is 220 volts AC with a frequency of 50 hertz (cycles). However, some areas still they have a 110-volt supply and it’s even possible to find dual voltage 110 and 220-volt systems in the same house or the same room. Note that most appliances, e.g. televisions made for 240 volts, will function with a power supply of 220 volts.
There is often a shortage of electric points in Spanish homes, with perhaps just one per room, so multi-plug adapters may be needed. Depending on the country you come from, you will need new plugs (enchufes) or a lot of adapters. Most Spanish plugs have two round pins. Sockets in modern properties may accept three-pin plugs, although few appliances are fitted with three-pin plugs. Plug adapters for most foreign electrical apparatus can be purchased in Spain, although it is wise to bring some adapters with you, plus extension leads and multi-plug extensions that can be fitted with Spanish plugs.
Gas in Spain
Mains gas is available only in major cities in Spain, although with the piping of gas from North Africa (Algeria and Libya) it may become more widely available. When moving into a property with mains gas, you must contact the local gas distributor to have the gas switched on, the meter read and to have yourself registered as the person on the contract. The process is similar as for electricity – each area will have a distributor but you are free to choose your own supplier. Several of the electricity providers in Spain offer joint tariffs to cover both electricity and gas. The main gas supply companies in Spain are Naturgy (formerly Gas Natural), Enagas and Endesa.
In some households, especially in rural areas, bottled calor gas is used. Costs usually work out cheaper than for mains gas and are around half that of mains gas in many northern European countries. Gas appliances in Spain include heaters, cookers and boilers. The main providers are Repsol Butano (the company responsible for distributing gas bottles) and Cepsa. Different sized bottles are available. A large bottle used for cooking can last an average family up to 3 months.
Since 2008, it is a legal requirement to have all gas appliances in Spanish households serviced and inspected every year. If you have a contract with one of the Spanish calor gas suppliers, they can do this for you or it will be done by your local authorised distributor. The inspection fee is around €60-70. Beware of bogus representatives calling unannounced to inspect appliances. It is quite common for people cold calling and claiming to be from a company such as Repsol Butano, saying an inspection is due. Their charges are extortionate and some will ask for payment on the spot. To avoid getting caught out, check with your gas provider for details of when an inspection is due.
Water in Spain
Water quality and availability is good in Spain, with near-universal access and over 99.5% of tap water considered safe to drink. Southern areas of Spain regularly suffer from droughts and there may be occasions where municipalities may restrict water consumption (e.g. no watering the garden or washing the car using the public water supply).
Spanish water suppliers
Spain operates a mixed market when it comes to water supply. Service provision is the responsibility of the municipalities. Just over half of the municipalities supply water through a municipal public provider. Around a third use a private company. The remainder have a public-private mix. The biggest private water suppliers in Spain are Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar), which provides water for around 12% of municipalities, and Aqualia. The largest public water company is Canal de Isabel II which supplies the Autonomous Community of Madrid.
Getting connected and registered
When setting up utilities in Spain, you should arrange for the water contract to be registered in your name (unless utilities are included in the rent). Contact your local town hall (ayuntamiento) to register ownership and have the water contract transferred to your name. You can do this by visiting the town hall or by visiting its website – some municipalities now have an option where you can register for your water contract, among other things, online. You’ll need to provide ID along with proof of address. Always check in advance that all water bills have been paid by the previous owner, otherwise you will be liable for any debts.
If your water supply has been disconnected, you will need to arrange with the local water company for it to be reconnected. The cost of connection to the local water supply for a new home varies considerably from around €75 up to €500 (when a private company controls the distribution), or sometimes more in an isolated area.
Spanish water rates
The average tariff for water supply and sanitation for residents in Spain is around €1.50/m3, which is below the EU average. There are large variations between cities and regions. In a large city such as Barcelona, the average monthly costs for a family with one child will be around €20-25. Most municipalities charge a standing quarterly or monthly fee for minimum consumption (canon de consumo) regardless of whether any water has actually been used. Some areas with private suppliers may charge a higher water rate for holiday homeowners. Water bills usually include sewerage and may also include other services such as refuse collection in some municipalities.
Water bills in Spain can be paid monthly or quarterly and can be paid in various ways including by direct debit. Make sure you don’t get into arrears with your bill as you will risk being cut off and then having to pay a reconnection fee. Always check your water bill carefully as overcharging can occur. To reduce your water costs, you can buy a water saver that mixes air with water, thus reducing the amount of water used. The cost of fitting an apartment with water savers can reportedly be recouped in six months through lower water bills. Water savers can be purchased from El Corte Inglés and Hipercor stores, hypermarkets and DIY stores.
Water heating in apartments may be provided by a central heating source for the whole building or apartments may have their own water heaters. If you install your own water heater, it should have a capacity of at least 75 litres. Many holiday homes have quite small water boilers, which are often inadequate for more than two people.
If you need to install a water heater (or fit a larger one), you should consider the merits of both electric and bottled gas heaters. An electric water boiler with a capacity of 75 litres (sufficient for two people) costs from €150 to €300 and usually takes between 60 and 90 minutes to heat water to 40ºC in winter.