Banging Heads with Bureaucracy – Part I

We’ve been living in Galicia for just under a month and already we’ve been outed to our neighbours (in a country which lives to gossip) as ‘electricity thieves’, and it’s not our fault.

This is our first real ‘run  in’ with Spains’ legendary bureaucracy, and I fear that it won’t be our last, hence the title of this blog.

Let me try and explain.

When we had the barn watertight, we brought in a local electrician to do the installation, which included re-siting the meter by the road (a legal requirement), and we also asked him to change the name of the account to myself, and double our ‘potential’ (the amount of electricity in Kw that we can use concurrently). Everything seemed to go well, with the installation at least, however the bill remained in the previous owners name and the potential down at a lowly 2.2 Kw (just enough to run a washing machine without blowing the main fuse).

Within the first week of us being here we spotted an engineer at our meter and Amanda went to speak to him thinking he was taking a reading in readiness for a new bill, but she returned to the house in a blind panic as he told her that the meter had been disconnected, and that we were stealing electricity. He would now report it to his company and politely informed her that it was likely that they would cut us off.

Very alarmed, in a house where everything is electric, we called the electrician who came straight over. He was as confused as us. He’d installed a new meter two years ago which had now disappeared and a new meter was in place but not connected to the electricity supply. He called our supplier who confirmed that they were aware, and that there had been a problem with the meter which their engineers had disconnected it to test.

We all breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed we would be able to cook tea, have a warm shower, and preserve the food in the fridge and freezer. We waited, admittedly a little nervously, for an engineer to attend and reconnect our meter.

A fortnight passed before a most unexpected development.

The previous owner, who lives locally and whose name is still on the bill, and who speaks no Castellano (only speaking the local dialect, ‘Gallego’), sent her son with a report from an engineer who had been out the previous day. In our absence he made out a formal report about our ‘electricity theft’, giving it to the neighbour, whose name is still on the bill. He was far from happy saying we’d landed his elderly mother in legal trouble, and after I worked out what it was, so was I.

We called the electrician again and he just said it was sorted and not to worry about anything. But he wasn’t the one with a pink form from the engineer bearing accusations of ‘theft’ or the one facing the prospect of cold showers and sandwiches by candlelight!

Another week on and we still don’t have a resolution, despite a letter to the electricity company demanding that they call us immediately.

It looks like the second engineer has reconnected the faulty meter as it seems to be showing random readings about the level of our consumption and our constantly exceeding our potential.

Much as I’ve tried to be logical in investigating the readings I’ve seen messages suggesting that we are over-using from a high of 130% to a lowly 29% above our potential. Some of those readings were when we’d nothing whatsoever switched on in the barn.

It’s a relief every morning when the lights work and we can boil the kettle for a brew, but just in case we’ve stocked up on firewood and candles.

It could be a very romantic, rustic, Christmas! (But I’m not sure Amanda will think so).

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