(Bloomberg) -- Escaping the sweltering heat baking much of Spain just got a little bit harder. The government last week declared that businesses will not be allowed to run their air conditioning below 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), part of a broader effort to save energy as Europe contends with record heat and races to cut its dependence on Russian gas.
Starting on Aug. 9 and lasting through November 2023, commercial buildings will have to keep summer air conditioning above 80 degrees -- matching a policy in place at public buildings -- and winter heating below 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius). The new rules apply to theaters, cinemas, museums, restaurants and shopping malls, while kindergartens, hospitals, schools and universities are off the hook. So are gyms, hair salons and laundries.
Beyond temperature, the new rules also mandate turning off the lights of shop windows after 10 p.m., and no longer illuminating monuments at night.
The decree is already invoking the ire of some businesses and politicians. Isabel Diaz Ayuso, the head of Spain’s wealthiest region Madrid and a prominent figure in the conservative Popular Party, has threatened to challenge the rules in court, arguing that darkness will feed economic insecurity and frighten away tourists. Deputy Prime Minister Teresa Ribera, who is in charge of energy policy, said all authorities have to comply with the rules, but signaled there could be some flexibility to protect the health of workers.
Spain is one of many European Union countries looking for ways to cut down on energy use as part of an agreement aimed at reducing the bloc’s consumption of Russian gas. The Mediterranean country, which relies less on Russia than some of its fellow EU countries, secured an exemption to reduce its consumption by 7%, less than half the 15% agreed on by the union last month.
Meanwhile, demand for air conditioners and fans has skyrocketed after a string of sizzling heat waves pushed temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit across large swathes of Spain, including the capital Madrid. The extreme heat even prompted some supermarkets to limit the sale of ice.
To contribute to energy savings, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez last week even asked ministers and public administration workers to ditch their ties to cool off. While delivering his speech, Sanchez led by example.
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