Bono Social de Electricidad electricity subsidy assessment

The Bono Social de Electricidad (BSE) is a government programme that seeks to address energy poverty by providing discounts on energy bills to at-risk individuals and families in Spain. 

To be eligible, an applicant has to be either a low earner, unemployed, temporarily unemployed (ERTE), or a business owner whose company has seen earnings drop significantly as a result of having to reduce working hours.

As a result of the complexity of the application process and the lack of information about how the system worked, the Spanish Ministry for Green Energy Transition created BOSCO, a software system that was intended to help decide who is entitled to the subsidy. 

Operator: Spanish Ministry for Green Energy Transition
Developer: Unknown
Country: Spain
Sector: Govt - energy
Purpose: Assess electricity subsidy eligibility
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Accountability; Bias/discrimination - income; Copyright
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Complaints/appeals; Legal

Risks and harms 🛑

The Bono Social de Electricidad has been criticised for being ineffective, and 


An assessment of the impact of the BSE on energy poverty in Spain found no statistically significant impact on the ability to keep houses adequately warm, nor on the presence of damp walls, rotting windows, and leaking roofs

The researchers also found that delays in paying electricity bills increased, and concluded that the BSE had not reduced energy poverty and perhaps made it worse.

Transparency 🙈

With BOSCO's app malfunctioning and difficult to understand, Spanish transparency organisation Civio and the country's National Commission on Markets and Competition created a dedicated webpage to help at-risk individuals and families struggling to re-register and apply for electricity discounts.

In 2019, Civio requested BOSCO's source code in order to ensure its own service gave the same results, only to be rebuffed. In July 2019, Civio filed an administrative order with Spain's Council of Transparency and Good Governance to force access to the code. This was declined on the basis the code constituted a trade secret. 

However, according to the Spanish Transparency Law and the regulation of intellectual property, work carried out in public administrations is not subjected to copyright. AlgorithmWatch also tried to find out whose copyright would have been violated, again without success.

Page info
Type: System
Published: May 2021
Last updated: October 2021