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Spanish govt insists on energy savings plan despite opposition

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: High-voltage power lines and an electricity pylon next to a group of wind turbines are pictured, in Barranco de Tirajana

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's government said on Monday that an energy saving plan approved last week will not be postponed and is mandatory, despite calls by the opposition and regional chiefs for it to be changed or scrapped over fears it could hurt tourism.

The plan, which will take full effect on Wednesday and requires air conditioning to be turned down in hotels, restaurants and stores and restrictions on lighting, will save between 4% and 5% of Spain's energy use, Energy Minister Teresa Ribera told a news conference on Monday.

Last month, EU countries agreed to voluntarily reduce gas use by 15% to prepare for a shut-off of Russian supply. Countries like Spain that argue they have a limited ability to export gas to EU neighbours can request a lower target of around 7%.

Ribera said that while regions could propose "new and concrete" proposals for tweaks to the plan before August 31, there was no going back.

"The royal decree is already in force. We cannot postpone it," she said after a virtual meeting with energy ministers for the 17 regions.

Regions held by the right-wing opposition People's Party (PP), such as Madrid, say the plan was too heavy a burden on their economies. In highly-decentralized Spain, regional authorities will be responsible for its enforcement, raising the risk they could derail it.

The PP on Monday formally asked the government to withdraw the royal decree approved last week.

"(This decree) has been prepared without measuring the economic impact on trade, tourism or culture," Miguel Tellado, a spokesman for the PP, said on Monday.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez appealed to the PP to show "unity, responsibility and solidarity" by backing the plan.

"I know I'm preaching in the desert though, as we have a negationist opposition," he told reporters at a news conference.

(Reporting by Christina Thykjaer and Inti Landauro, editing by Deepa Babington)