MADRID - Struggling Spaniards are rebelling against high electricity prices, which have soared by 42 percent since an economic crisis erupted in 2008.

Buckling under a 26-percent unemployment rate after five years of stop-start recession, many Spaniards battle to pay their electricity bills, the third highest in the European Union after Cyprus and Ireland. The increase in prices is “hair-raising”, said Cote Romero, coordinator of Platform for a New Energy Model, which unites 270 groups including protesters against economic inequality, leftists, unions, cooperatives and ecological organisations. Some 1.5 million homes were left without electricity in 2012 for failing to pay bills, she said, leaving families with no hot water or cooking facilities. “But without getting to that dramatic point, there are many families severely rationing their energy consumption,” said Romero. By the end of 2012, 17.9 percent of Spanish households - more than three million — were unable to adequately warm their homes, according to the National Statistics Institute. The Spanish Red Cross said in a report Friday that of the families it had helped, 38 percent were without electricity, “a problem of the first magnitude”. Roman Catholic agency Caritas said its aid to families suffering from “energy poverty” had multiplied by more than 300 percent over the past two years. A family with two children paid an average 844.80 euros ($1,140) for electricity in 2013, up from 590.20 euros in 2008, according to Industry Ministry data. Almost half a million consumers joined forces in October to make the first collective purchase of electricity in Spain to try to negotiate a lower price.