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ENERGY

Fuel crisis: Italy braces for delays as truck deliveries suspended from Monday

Italy’s road haulage companies said they will suspend services across the country from Monday, March 14th, due to the recent “explosion” in fuel costs.

Fuel crisis: Italy braces for delays as truck deliveries suspended from Monday
Trucks on a motorway near Rome during a previous nationwide strike against high fuel prices in 2007. Haulage companies are suspending work and organising protests this week over the recent surge in fuel costs. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

Italian haulage industry union Trasportiunito said that the planned action was not a strike, but an “inevitable” suspension of services due to “force majeure” – namely the soaring cost of fuel, according to Italian media reports.

In a letter sent to the government this week, the union said it was coordinating action taken by hauliers who “are no longer able to guarantee contractual obligations” due to fuel prices, reported Italy’s Ansa news agency.

Petrol and gas prices have skyrocketed across Europe since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including in Italy.

READ ALSO: Italy announces plan to end reliance on Russian gas by 2025

It is not known how long the suspension might last, but industry associations warned of price rises if the government did not intervene to slash the cost of fuel.

Consumer watchdog Codacons told Ansa the hauliers’ actions would lead to a “surge” in retail prices that would cause further difficulties for households already struggling with the soaring cost of energy.

“The road transport block will have direct effects on the community, suspending the supply of goods to the commercial sector and leading to a surge in retail prices in shops and supermarkets,” said Codacons president Carlo Rienzi.

He said this was “an inevitable consequence, considering that 85 percent of goods sold in Italy are transported by road”.

Rienzi said it was “not clear what the government was waiting for”, calling for it to “immediately cancel VAT on petrol and diesel and reduce excise duties”.

Luigi Barone, of the Italian Federation of Organisations for Consortia and Industrialisation (FICEI), told Euronews on Friday that haulage was among the “numerous energy-intensive companies” that “have slowed down their production due to the disproportionate increase in energy costs.”

“It is clear that the higher costs, unfortunately, will filter to the consumer who will find it a double drain: the doubling of bills will increase the cost of numerous foodstuffs on the shelves,” he said.

Truck drivers are also planning to hold demonstrations around the country on Saturday, March 19th.

Though the demonstrations and stoppages are expected to cause price rises, Italy’s supermarket bosses insisted that there is no immediate threat to supply chains after rumours of a transport blockade of ports in Sardinia reportedly prompted panic-buying on the island this week. 

Unions meanwhile stressed that reports of a planned blockade in Sardinia were untrue, saying such a measure would be illegal.

“Blocking basic necessities is a crime, it is not possible to deprive the population of primary goods,” the general secretary of trade union Filt-Cgil, Arnaldo Boeddu, told newspaper Il Messaggero.

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ENERGY

Drought hits Italy’s hydroelectric plants amid energy crisis

Hydroelectric power production in Italy has plunged this year thanks to a severe drought that has also sparked water restrictions and fears for agriculture, industry sources said on Friday.

Drought hits Italy's hydroelectric plants amid energy crisis

Hydropower facilities, mostly located in the mountains in the country’s north, usually cover almost one fifth of Italy’s energy demands.

But the ongoing lack of rain is causing problems at a time when Rome is desperately trying to wean itself off its dependence on Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Italy’s heatwave to last another week and get even hotter, say forecasts

“From January to May 2022, hydro production fell by about 40 percent compared to the corresponding period in 2021,” a spokesman for Utilitalia, a federation of water companies, told AFP.

“Hydro production has been steadily decreasing since July 2021,” he said, blaming “the severe shortage of water even at high levels”.

An industry source told AFP that while the situation was constantly changing, estimates for the first six months of 2022 suggest nationwide hydroelectric generation will be almost half the equivalent period of 2021.

One small plant near Piacenza, southeast of Milan, was shut indefinitely on June 21st due to low levels on the River Po that feeds it, the Enel energy company said.

READ ALSO: How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

“Considering the current drought situation, other hydro plants are not operating at full capacity,” a spokesman added, without giving further details.

The Po River, which stretches across the north of the country, is Italy’s largest reservoir of fresh water. Much of it used by farmers, but the area is suffering its worst drought for 70 years.

Italy’s largest agricultural association, Coldiretti, said the drought is putting over 30 percent of national agricultural production and half of livestock farming in the Po Valley at risk.

Local authorities say the situation in the area has been “extremely delicate” since last week, with four regions asking the national government to declare a state of emergency and hundreds of towns now rationing water.

In the northwest region of Piedmont, water is being rationed in more than 200 municipalities according to the ANSA news agency.

Drought in Italy: What water use restrictions are in place and where?

The Maggiore and Garda lakes are both far lower than usual for this time of year, while further south, the level of the Arno, Aniene and Tiber rivers have also dropped.

Arid conditions are set to worsen as the heatwave currently gripping Italy is expected to last until the end of June, with temperatures around the country of “up to 40°C in the shade” forecast early next week.

In Milan and Turin, a massive increase in electricity usage for cooling day and night has pushed the electricity grid beyond its limits over the past week, leading to blackouts.

With many parts of Europe experiencing unusually high temperatures for this time of year, experts have repeatedly warned that longer, earlier heatwaves are a consequence of global heating.

“As a result of climate change, heatwaves are starting earlier,” said Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.

“What we’re witnessing today is unfortunately a foretaste of the future” if concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise and push temperatures towards 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, she added.

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