Europe as a whole is facing soaring power prices as its economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, while natural gas reserves on the continent are at a worryingly low level.
Italy in particular relies heavily on imported gas: some 40 percent of Italy's primary energy consumption is gas, compared with about 15 percent in neighbouring France, according to official statistics for both countries.
Tabarelli pointed to a reduction in the amount of gas delivered to Europe from Russia as one of the key causes of the crisis.
This is partly due to aging transportation networks, and partly to Moscow’s efforts to apply pressure on European governments to give the necessary approvals to open its Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the launch for which was pushed back by Germany’s energy regulator to at least March 2022, he said.
He also highlighted a push by China and other countries to transition their main energy supply from coal to natural gas, increasing global demand on the energy source.
“Energy companies are investing more in renewables and less in fossil fuels, but the demand for gas isn’t decreasing,” Tabarelli said.
His concerns were echoed by Italian consumer rights group Consumerismo.
If prices rise as predicted, the group said, energy bills would cost the average family in Italy 3,368 euros in 2022 - 1,227 euros more than in 2021.
It recommended that the government allocate at least 10 billion euros “to counter increases and speculation on international energy markets".