Iberdrola puzzles clients with ICP demands

ELECTRICITY supplier Iberdrola is once again baffling homeowners with its latest energy initiatives, leaving the common question on everyone’s lips: What is an ICP?

EWN has been inundated with messages from concerned homeowners, having received notification from energy supplier, Iberdrola, instructing them to fit an ICP in their home. The problem is that they do not know what an ICP is, why they need one or how they go about getting one, so we spoke to experienced Electrician, Tony Poole, of Sparks Electrical Services, to get the low down.

Tony explained that the issue has been keeping him extremely busy for about 18 months, following a Royal Decree (Order ITC/1.857/2008) which was passed by the EU on July 1 2008, stating that all electrical installations must have a device for controlling the contracted power supply.

He explained that the initiative forms part of the EU’s promise to save energy and has been implemented across Europe. As Spain’s national grid is not as effective as it should be, Iberdrola is being ordered to keep stricter control over energy use, by ensuring that an ICP (Interrupter de Control de Potencia) or Power Control Switch is installed in every home.

“The problem applies to some 320,000 homes across the Valencia region alone, mainly those that were built during the nineties. Most homes built since 2002 will already have an ICP, whilst properties which are much older may have the old automatic type, which was discontinued in the mid 90’s, and will not appear on Iberdrola’s list.”

When homeowners make a contract with Iberdrola, they must agree an electricity tariff, which is stated on their electricity bills, normally either 3.3kW or 5.5kW.

Many older properties in particular, were only contracted with the minimum supply, and with clients later realizing that it was not enough to support all of the electrical appliances which they wished to operate, they opted for an “illegal” upgrade- illegal because it was arranged privately rather than being officially applied for and authorized by Iberdrola.

Tony confirmed that “This is a common occurrence, with 8 out of 10 properties that I visit using a different measure of energy than that stated on their contract!”, and thus explaining why Iberdrola cannot account for all of the electricity being used in the country and need for the ICP!

Properties known to Iberdrola as requiring an ICP will receive a general letter explaining the directive and what size ICP they need according to their contracted supply. If this was already 5.5kW then a standard ICP is usually adequate, and can be installed by any qualified Electrician.

Once this is in place the client must arrange for Iberdrola to inspect and seal it, making it “tamper-proof” for a one off charge of €9.04 plus IVA, which is added to the electricity bill.

However, those with 3.3kW generally wish to upgrade, finding that when they attempt to use several appliances at once the power overloads the ICP and it trips-out. Tony explained that homeowners must apply to Iberdrola for the upgrade, and must have a boletin (certificate) produced by an Electrician, certifying that their wiring system and sockets are all up to current standards, which he confirmed is often not the case and modifications are required, at a cost!

Tony said that “I feel sorry for older people who do not understand the new ruling, and in many cases were not aware that their electric supply had been upgraded illegally before they purchased the property.” However, on the plus side, Iberdrola has not sought to penalize clients that have been receiving far more electricity than they were paying for, often over long periods of time.

This all sounds very complicated! So what happens if homeowners simply ignore Iberdrola’s instruction? Tony explained that a second letter is sent by recorded delivery, giving the recipient 20 days notice to comply and confirm that the ICP has been fitted. Finally failing that, a third letter, again by recorded delivery, will inform them that they will be penalized, and made to pay a higher tariff. “A 3.3kW contracted supply will be charged at the rate for 10kW, and a 5.5kW supply will be increased to a 20kW tariff”.

In spite of this, Tony’s advice to readers is not to panic or be tempted to get an ICP fitted until they receive a letter, as they may not need one, and if they do, will have plenty of time to arrange things before the penalties are applied.

He suggested that if you are unsure, or do not live in Spain fulltime and are afraid you may not receive the letter, it is best to telephone Iberdrola on 901/902 10 22 10, quoting your contract number, and ask if you need to have an ICP fitted.

By Heidi Wardman

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