Scorching heat has caused power prices to soar in Spain, leading to renewed tensions in the country’s leftist coalition government over how to lower ballooning electricity bills.
A recent heat wave that sent temperatures soaring as high as 47°C in the southern region of Andalusia caused demand for electricity to jump as people turned on their air-conditioners, putting further pressure on power prices, which were already high due to a global natural gas supply crunch.
“Everything indicates the month of August will end with the highest electricity bill in history,” consumer rights group Facua said on Tuesday.
It predicts the average monthly household electricity bill this month will hit 92 euros (US$108), a 44 percent increase over August last year.
The jump in prices has largely offset the temporary reduction in the value-added tax (VAT) on electricity bills — from 21 percent to 10 percent — which Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government introduced last month to provide relief to consumers.
Far-left party Podemos, the junior partner in Socialist Sanchez’s coalition government, has accused the administration of not doing enough to cut power bills.
The government “must intervene in the power market and move toward a system of regulated prices,” Spanish Minister of Labor Yolanda Diaz, one of the coleaders of the party and also the third highest-ranking member of the government, told the Ctxt magazine.
“All of this is due to a process of privatizations in the electricity sector ... which has resulted in an oligopoly that has led to repeated price increases every year,” she added.
Spain at the end of last year had the fifth-highest household electricity prices in the EU after Germany, Denmark, Belgium and Ireland, according to Eurostat, the bloc’s statistics office.
The country relies more heavily on natural gas to produce electricity than other European nations, such as neighboring France, which has a significant nuclear power sector, Facua spokesman Jordi Castilla said.
Podemos has called for the government to issue a decree that imposes an “immediate” ceiling on power prices and has threatened to stage street protests over the issue, in a country where the question of energy poverty gets regular media attention.
The proposal has been rejected by the Socialist Workers’ Party, which says Spain must respect European market rules for electricity.
“To say that we can solve this with a decree generates false hopes,” Spanish Minister for the Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera, a Socialist, said last week in a TV interview. “Look what is happening in the rest of Europe, it is not a problem that is specific to Spain.”
Ribera has instead called on Brussels to change the rules that set power prices in the EU, which are, according to her, dictated by the price of fossil fuels, a system which hurts gas-dependent Spain.
The minister wrote to the European Commission a few weeks ago to request alterations to the system, but Brussels “answered that it had no intention of introducing changes,” she told news radio Cadena Ser earlier this week, adding that such a position was “not reasonable.”
However, Ribera has raised the idea of creating a public firm to manage the country’s hydroelectric plants, a measure long demanded by Podemos to replace major power firms, which it accuses of making huge profits on the backs of consumers.
However, this would only be possible when existing electrical power concessions expire, which will only happen in a few years.
Podemos and consumer groups are asking for the government to make the drop in the VAT tax on household electricity bills permanent.
Taxes account for more than 45 percent of the electricity bill in Spain, compared with an average of about 40 percent in the EU.
Sanchez’s government earlier this month extended until October a ban on cutting off electricity and other utilities over unpaid bills as part of measures aimed at helping vulnerable people hit by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SELF-SUFFICIENCY: Alibaba is one of a number of Chinese firms that has answered Beijing’s call to invest in the development of cutting-edge technologies Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) yesterday unveiled a new server chip that is based on advanced 5-nanometer technology, marking a milestone in China’s pursuit of semiconductor self-sufficiency. The Chinese tech giant’s newest chip is based on micro-architecture provided by the SoftBank Group Corp-owned Arm Ltd, it said. Alibaba, which is holding its annual cloud summit in Hangzhou, China, said that the chip is to be used in its own data centers in the “near future” and would not, for the time being, be sold commercially. “Customizing our own server chips is consistent with our ongoing efforts toward boosting our computing capabilities with better
Production at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp’s (TSMC, 台積電) fabs was not affected by a fire at a construction site for a water recycling facility in the Southern Taiwan Science Park in Tainan. The world’s biggest contract chipmaker said that the construction site is not adjacent to its fabs, which were unaffected. CTCI Corp (中鼎工程) is responsible for the construction of the facility, which it is to operate itself once it is completed, the chipmaker said. The facility caught fire at about 11am, and the blaze was brought under control about 30 minutes after the incident was reported, the Southern Taiwan Science Park Administration
‘SHORT-TERM ECONOMIC PAIN’: A military takeover would only temporarily weigh on wafer production on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, IC Insights said Taiwan has more chip manufacturing capacity than any other economy in the world, US-based market information advisory firm IC Insights said in a research paper last week, cautioning that the nation’s strength could prompt China to attempt to take over Taiwan. Taiwan commanded 21.4 percent of global installed IC capacity, ahead of South Korea’s 20.4 percent, Japan’s 15.8 percent and China’s 15.3 percent, North America’s 12.6 percent and Europe’s 5.7 percent, IC Insights said. Taiwan is one of two countries that uses 10-nanometer technology or better to produce wafers, holding 62.8 percent of global capacity, with South Korea holding the remaining 37.2
AGGRESSIVE STEP: With the new processors, Apple is aiming at the high-end chips Intel has provided for the MacBook Pro and other top-end Macs for about 15 years Apple Inc on Monday took the most aggressive step yet to strip Intel Corp chips from its computers, announcing more powerful homegrown Mac processors alongside a total revamp of its MacBook Pro laptop computers. The company showcased the chips at an event called “Unleashed,” which also included its latest audio products. The new components, called the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, are 70 percent faster than its M1 predecessors, Apple said. It also unveiled a redesigned MacBook Pro, adding larger screens, MagSafe charging and better resolution. With the new processors and devices, Apple is aiming squarely at the high-end chips that Intel has