“Saving energy is very difficult. If it's cold you have to heat the installation»

We are in short sleeves and the temperatures are abnormally higher than usual for a month of November, but the winter tourist season is just around the corner. Without even knowing if we will have a particularly cold winter, rural houses and accommodation in the territory face a few difficult months when it comes to being able to cover energy costs, with skyrocketing electricity, gas or diesel prices.

Although it is not too cold, it will be time to heat the facilities and this is where businesses are thinking about trying to reduce costs. According to the Hosteltur website, citing a report by 'ClubRural', eight out of ten owners of rural establishments in Spain believe that the maintenance of their accommodation is "unsustainable". And, precisely, for this reason they plan to open only at times of greatest demand, such as long weekends or Christmas.

These same owners have observed that the electricity bill has risen more than 50% compared to last year and nine out of ten maintain that the cap on the price of gas has contributed to this increase.

Among the alternatives that the owners of these rural houses consider to reduce the energy bill, the installation of solar panels stands out. According to the 'ClubRural' report, 22.7% already have panels installed and 20.4% plan to do so soon.

Ruth Ceperuelo is part of the Tarragona Association of Hospitality Companies Federation (AEHT) and represents the rural houses of Conca de Barberà. She is one of the owners of these businesses (in her case she has six rural houses) who has been working on the transition to green energy in her facilities for some time.

The use of diesel for heating houses, not to think about it. Ruth switched to pellets, even though the price has doubled. “Last year she paid 5 euros for a 15 kilo sack. The last one I paid for 11. Whoever has diesel, I won't even tell you », she explains. Heating smaller houses is easier, “because you complement them with fireplaces. But to heat the big ones you need heating and the price skyrockets”, laments this owner of rural houses.

Ruth can't stop thinking about trying to cut costs. For example, “many people have installed aerothermal systems and we have them for hot water. We have also requested a budget to install solar panels. Before, these installations were amortized over 14 or 15 years and they did not come out as profitable. But now -as everything has been put- they pay for themselves in less time and it is a good alternative».

Another idea to try to lower costs is to rent the house for at least two nights. Ruth Ceperuelo explains that “in Conca de Barberà we have many one-night clients and this complicates everything and increases the cost. If you rent for two nights, it is easier to amortize the opening of the house, because heating it costs a lot of money. For this reason, many businesses have put the minimum of two nights.

Regarding the forecasts for this winter, Ruth almost prefers not to 'get wet' too much. “The market is very changeable. We have many requests for New Year's Eve, but since the pandemic people are more up to date », she comments. What she is very clear about is that "this winter, even if we open, the profit margin will be reduced."

At Mas Ardevol, in Falset, they have been committed to "more sustainable energy" for a long time, explains Gemma, its owner. That's why they put Nordic stoves in the biggest rooms. “They are so big (4 meters high and 35 square metres) that it is impossible to provide comfort heating with just wood,” says Gemma.

Precisely this firewood, which is used for the three large rooms and the living room of the house, «we get it from the undergrowth. We asked Agriculture for permission to clean it and they allowed us to. It is more expensive than buying the firewood, because you have to pay a professional, but in this way we also contribute to keeping the forest clean”, explains Gemma.

Regarding the two remaining rooms of the house “in one we put pellets last year and the other, the only one we have with gas, last winter we already decided to close it because we could not afford the expense. This year we will do the same again. It is about managing to reduce expenses and survive as much as possible », he concludes.

fewer rooms

Other businesses, such as the Lo Refugi hostel in Cornudella de Montsant, have chosen to close plants in winter. «Last year, the coldest months, we already did it and went from 32 to 6 places. And this year we are going to repeat it”, comments its owner, Víctor Miró, who adds that “wanting to save on energy is very difficult, because if it is cold you have to heat the installation”.

In his case, the heating is oil, «which we have gone from paying 70 cents per liter to 1.40. The price of electricity also affects us and we pay twice as much as three years ago». For this reason, at Lo Refugi they have opted for alternatives to cut costs, such as, for example, “washing our clothes ourselves, instead of taking them to the laundry. Or change the lights in the corridors and common spaces, replacing the switches with motion sensors that allow the light to turn off by itself if it does not detect anyone.

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