By Oliver McIntyre
Consumer groups have warned that under a planned change to the special night-time electricity rate, people who use this discount plan will see their bills increase by up to 80 per cent.Since 1983 the night-time plan has offered users a discount of 55 per cent on energy consumed from 11pm to 7am, in exchange for a three per cent surcharge on any electricity used during the rest of the day.But under the Ministry of Industry-approved rate change, which takes effect July 1, the plan changes dramatically. The low-price night-time period is expanded from the current eight hours to 14 hours, but the discount during this period is reduced to 47 per cent, while the surcharge for daytime use surges to 35 per cent.Further, consumers using the night-time plan will be obligated to contract the maximum level of service required for their peak use.The Spanish Consumers' Union (UCE) says the upshot is that families will pay 140 euros more a year while the electricity companies will boost revenues by 150 million euros. It calls the rate change "unconstitutional" and says it plans to challenge it in the courts.Meanwhile, the National Energy Commission has requested that the ministry increase general electricity rates by 11 per cent in July. So far the amount of the rate change has not been announced but the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has said the increase will be "reasoned and reasonable," taking into account the current economic situation.