Renewed Warning to 3-Phase Consumers!

Way way back in August 2010 I posted a Warning to 3-Phase Consumers  concerning the ‘potencia’ they have contracted and the inevitable problems they will encounter when Endesa, or other electricity provider, requests the installation of an ‘Interruptor de Control de Potencia’ (ICP) on their supply.

With the passing of time, things have moved on significantly, and so I am reposting my warning to all 3-Phase consumers! The function of the ‘current limiter’, the ICP, is now integrated within the new ‘intelligent’ Smart Meters being ‘rolled out’ throughout Spain. The installation of Smart Meters has been ongoing for several years and the Government plan is to complete the roll-out before 31 December 2018.

Working alongside Endesa, as I do, I am aware that some villages in my ‘patch’ have already been upgraded. I’ve been told all electricity meters, for consumers contracted with less than 15 Kilowatts, have been replaced in both Monda and Guaro. I also know that some urbanisations, village streets and areas of the ‘campo’ have been upgraded in Alhaurín, Coín and other towns and villages.

Most ‘dwellings’ have single-phase electricity, with a nominal supply voltage of 230 Volts and a potencia of upto 9,2KW. However, many larger homes and ‘campo fincas’ have 3-Phase with a nominal supply of 400V. The higher voltage is required by some well pumps, motors, workshop machinery, large water heaters, pool heaters and larger aircon units. I have installed one or two large ceramic hobs that also operate at 400V!

The main problem with 3-Phase in a domestic installation is ensuring there is sufficient power on each of the 3 phases. Check my guide Potencia Options for Single-Phase and 3-Phase Supply Contracts to see what I mean.

Here is an example:

You wake up bright and early to another sunny day in Spain and you fancy toast with your morning coffee.

You switch on the kettle (rated 2000 Watts) and plug in your toaster (rated 1100 Watts), the total load is 3100 Watts. Given that these are both kitchen appliances I can almost guarantee the sockets in which they are plugged in will be on the same phase.

Your 3-phase supply is rated at 6,582KW; your recently fitted Smart Meter will therefore have an integrated current limiter of 10 Amps. As you can see from the Potencia Options chart, 10 Amps will only provide 2300 Watts per phase.

You have now exceeded your contracted potencia, your electricity meter will cut-out and all the electric goes off. The kettle hasn’t yet boiled, the bread is still cold and now you have no electricity, so you call your ‘Shockingly Good’ electrician, who isn’t to pleased to hear from you at 8am on Sunday morning!

From the Potencia Options chart you can see, in order to have sufficient power on each phase you need to contract at a potencia of at least 10,392KW (3,45KW per phase), or 13,856KW (4,6KW per phase)!

In many instances I have advised customers to contract at more than 15KW. The advantage to the 3-Phase consumer, is that once you contract above 15KW, Endesa or your preferred electricity provider will instal a ‘Maximetro’ not a Smart Meter. The Maximetro does not have an integrated current limiter, which means you will never loose power if you exceed your contracted potencia. The major disadvantage of this contract is the Fixed Charge to have an ‘unrestricted’ supply.

Summary of Fixed Charge for electricity, based on latest tariff information from Endesa Energía SAU:

Potencia upto 10KW is 3,50€ per KW per month, i.e. 5,75KW is 20,13€ per month + electricity tax + IVA (VAT)

Potencia 10KW to 15KW is 4,01€ per KW per month, i.e. 10,392KW is 41,67€ per month + electricity tax + IVA (VAT)

Potencia more than 15KW is 6,79€ per KW per month, i.e. 15,1KW is 102,53€ per month + electricity tax + IVA (VAT)

Please see my recent post Endesa ‘Free Market’ Tariffs – December 2015 for more information on the latest prices and available tariffs from Endesa Energía SAU.

My advice to existing 3-Phase consumers; if your new Smart Meter or ICP keeps ‘tripping’ OFF on a regular basis, upgrade your potencia contratada to 15,1KW or more, and pay the higher bills(!), or consider converting your supply to single-phase, where you can contract up to a maximum power of 11,5KW.

It may well be much cheaper to change your 3-Phase well pump or pool heater to single-phase and switch your supply to single-phase, rather than face the huge bills you would have with an unrestricted 3-Phase supply.

I can offer assistance to help you make an informed decision based on your specific requirements. I can also perform load tests to identify your ‘peak’ load on each phase, liase with Endesa and provide a quote for any work required to upgrade your potencia or change your supply to single-phase. You can contact me via email (see home page) or telephone me on +(34) 659 862 691.

13 February 2016