• Grandmother’s death in apartment fire raises level of ire over energy poverty
• Activists say utility companies emboldened by court ruling in favor of cutoffs
The death Monday in Reus, Catalonia, of an 81-year-old grandmother in an apartment fire that started from candles she had lit because she was unable to pay her utility bills has caused anger and indignation, underscoring what activists say is an energy poverty problem that leaves more than 5 million Spanish households unable to pay costly electricity and gas bills each month.
In Catalonia, anger is running particularly high in the aftermath of a ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court (Tribuna Constitucional) overturning a 2014 regional law prohibiting utility companies from unilaterally cutting off power and gas to households that were behind in their monthly payments. According to news reports, Gas Natural Fenosa had cut off the woman’s power supply two months ago for failure to pay her bill.
Energy poverty activists say the problem is reaching critical levels in some areas of Spain as winter approaches, with as many as 13.7 percent of households across Spain unable to pay their monthly energy bills and utility companies now emboldened by the court ruling that they cannot be stopped from cutting off supplies when households are in arrears on their monthly payments.
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