It is one of the measures that the Government is finalizing to try to mitigate the impact of the increase in the price of the wholesale electricity market on the electricity bill of the most disadvantaged households: establish what the Ministry for the Ecological Transition calls “minimum supply vital “, a kind of extension of the minimum vital income (IMV) that takes into account the energy expenditure of the most vulnerable.
Teresa Ribera announces changes in the social bond of electricity that all large families enjoy without distinguishing their income
This social coverage measure, defined by the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, as “minimum vital consumption” in an interview with El País last weekend, it has been on the Executive table for years. Now, and in the words of Vice President Teresa Ribera, “whatever happens with the social shield”, which prohibits cutting off the supply due to non-payment, the time has come to put it into operation. Even more so with a view to a winter that is expected to be difficult due to the spectacular rise in the so-called electricity pool, driven by the price of gas, which is skyrocketing.
The measure is being finalized by the Ribera department and the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations, led by José Luis Escrivá. The intention is to include it in the regulatory package that the Council of Ministers will approve in the coming weeks.
This minimum vital supply consists, as explained by the third vice president in an interview with elDiario.es, in that these vulnerable households “always have a minimum guaranteed by electricity providers”: “maintain a minimum electricity supply in their households “and” ensure “that” they are left with nothing. ”
“For now, thanks to the social shield”, which prohibits supply cuts until October 31, this situation has not arisen. But “it is important to work so that what happens with the social shield [que fue prorrogado por última vez en agosto]This situation can be alleviated through the figure of the minimum vital supply, “explained Ribera.
“Minimal comfort power”
His Ministry works “to guarantee a minimum power of comfort for the severely vulnerable, who are now covered by the electricity social bonus and the thermal social bonus, and also by the social shield that we have promoted in these hard months due to the pandemic”, indicates Ecological Transition.
This figure seeks to ensure that this minimum energy supply is not cut off for those who can benefit from the Social Electricity Bonus and who have a contract, but also for those who do not have it (for example because their home is sublet) and who already receive the IM V. “We are working on it to be able to approve it as soon as possible,” these sources indicate.
At present, the social bonus for electricity is paid by electricity marketers and the social thermal bonus (an aid to defray the costs of energy for heating, sanitary hot water or cooking) is financed via Budgets. But the fight against energy poverty will receive more funds. The bill that the Executive has sent to Congress to cut the extra income of hydroelectric and nuclear plants due to the increase in CO2 prices (which they do not support, but benefits them because it raises the cost of the wholesale market) plans to allocate 10% of the income obtained to help the severely vulnerable.
Some sources familiar with the Government’s plans point out that in the definition of this vital minimum supply it would also be that the electricity expenditure of the most vulnerable families works as a deduction in the calculation of their income to be able to access the IMV. This would mean that more families could benefit from this minimum state income. Other sources ensure that this option is ruled out.
One of the problems that the Government is analyzing is that the people who most need these support measures, and who may already be receiving the IMV, are often not holders of the electricity contracts associated with their homes. For example, the contract belongs to the owner of the property and these families are subletted, and receive coverage from the social services of the municipalities or third sector entities. And in these cases it can be complex to contact the marketer. It is one of the aspects that is being worked on.
The IMV, created in 2020, is an income that ranges between 469.8 euros and 1,033 per month in twelve payments, depending on the type of households. This aid had been claimed by Brussels for years and had only reached 725,000 households in June 2021 (when it was one year since its launch), a third of the 2.3 million target set by the Government when it was implemented. March.
An old promise
This minimal supply is an old promise. It was included in the government agreement between the PSOE and United We Can, which promised a “deep reform” of the social bond for electricity, which offers discounts to certain groups, such as low-income households and large families, to “allow any household to make minimum energy consumption “.
It was also included in the National Strategy Against Energy Poverty 2019-2024 that the Executive of Pedro Sánchez approved in April 2019, then, without United We Can as a partner. This strategy envisaged putting it into operation taking into account the different situations of vulnerability. Then it had an expiration date and its duration was limited to a period of four months. That is the period that in principle is on the table, with the possibility of establishing extensions.
That period would begin to count once the four months established by the legislation have elapsed to be able to cut off the electricity to a vulnerable customer from the first request to pay the electricity bill for non-payment.
“At the end of that period without their situation having been regularized, the supply may be interrupted,” said the aforementioned strategy. The document proposed to reduce energy poverty by between 25% and 50% in the period 2019-2024. This problem has increased as a result of the pandemic and the current electricity price crisis, after the improvement registered in the year prior to the arrival of the coronavirus.
Also the National Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) approved and sent to Brussels last year promised this vital minimum supply, “in such a way as to prevent the supply of the most vulnerable households from being interrupted for a period of time”, and counting on social services, which are “those who will have to apply the precautionary principle” associated with it.
The PNIEC included the creation of “a new energy social bonus, granted based on disposable income criteria” that could “be relaxed for certain categories of especially vulnerable consumers, and paying special attention to households with minors.”
In January, Ribera announced in Congress a reform of the social bond, which is granted to large families without any distinction on their income level, so that it benefits “those who need it most.”
“We need to consolidate and expand the electricity social bond, concentrating on those who need us most” and “understand if the categories previously established in 2017 of vulnerable consumer really correspond to those who need it most,” he explained. “Sometimes we find that this is not necessarily the case, and if we cross-check income and wealth information, we may be covering people who can better manage themselves and setting aside resources that could be allocated to particularly needy groups.”