The slow drip of applications to move from the previous bonus model, designed in 2009, to the current one, is justified in different ways depending on the source that provides the explanation. The government blames the lack of knowledge on the part of the consumer, who tried to alleviate with several campaigns that intensified in the final stretch of the year, while other sources aware of the process ensure that the complexity of the process made desist or directly prevented more than one citizen complete the petition. What is certain is that the social bonus takes time in the eye of the hurricane.
Designed in 2009 for small vulnerable consumers with a regulated tariff, the criteria to access this rebate changed in 2017. The PP government linked them almost exclusively to income parameters and gave until April last year to request the transfer to the new model. So, the ministry led by Álvaro Nadal estimated that about 4.5 million people could be at risk of energy poverty and be entitled to the rebate, but only 45%, about two million, I would request it.
One year and two extensions after – one until October and another until December – there are only 1,042,021 active social bonds, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. The department headed by Teresa Ribera says however that on December 20, 11 days after the deadline, there were some 400,000 more applications that were admitted and very close to the concession, out of a total of almost two million requests received. This would lead to end the year with nearly one and a half million bonds awarded.
Given the few requests received at the beginning of autumn, the Government of Pedro Sanchez set a moratorium until the end of the year, but decreed to suspend the discount to all those users who did not request the change before October 8, the date on which the previous one ended term. Only those who request the renewal before December 31 will recover the amounts charged more since then and will also have access to the thermal social bond, the new help for heating. But they will not lose the right to discount, which may be requested at any time beyond 2018.
At the end of July, only 650,000 users, 25% of those who took part in the previous model had managed to switch to the new system. The same Minister Ribera had crossed shortly before "ridiculous" the percentage of users who had requested to benefit from this rate under the new criteria.
With the new regulations, many of the parameters previously used to grant the discount were eliminated, such as having low power contracted. This group, which represented the bulk of the beneficiaries of the previous bonus – almost one and a half million people who stopped receiving it in October – stayed out, unless they met the new income requirements. The current law distinguishes between vulnerable consumers, vulnerable vulnerable and at risk of social exclusion. And of the million users who had activated their bonus on December 20, 544,570 people belonged to the first category, 494,372 to the second and 2,670 to the third, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition.
The Government of Pedro Sánchez further expanded the fan by adopting a series of urgent measures this October, when he undertook to design a strategy for fight against energy poverty That should be ready for this spring. The CNMC, together with the Civio Foundation, has developed an app on-line so that consumers know if they have the right to enjoy the electric social bond and thus facilitate access to this subsidized rate.
Consumers entitled to the social bonus who do not request it before December 31 completely lose the possibility of benefiting from the thermal social bond this winter. This aid, a single cash contribution for heating, whose amount varies according to income and geographical area, is linked to the electric social bond and is automatically recognized for all consumers entitled to this discount.
The big difference between the electric and thermal bond, the latter created last October to subsidize heating, sanitary hot water or kitchen, resides in the fact that the first one may continue to be requested at any time beyond December 31, something that does not happen with the second. The beneficiaries of the previous electric social bond who do not request the change to the new model before the end of the year only lose the possibility of collecting the amounts due since October 8, when they were no longer applying the discount when the renewal period expired. , but do not lose the right to request it. The social thermal bond, on the other hand, was created as an urgent measure to deal with fuel costs – be it natural gas, butane, diesel, pellets … – during this winter, and at the end of the year the possibility of receiving this help.
Users who have been left out can only wait for measures to be taken in this regard in the new National Strategy against Energy Poverty that the Government is designing. The Ministry for the Ecological Transition has opened for this purpose a preliminary public consultation phase, which will last until January 17, and has created on its website a public access for citizens, organizations and associations to make their contributions.
Although the number of people who can not afford to keep the house at an adequate temperature has been reduced compared to the hardest years of the crisis, in 2017 there were still some four million people at risk of energy poverty.