Italy receives lower Russian gas supply for second day

Italian energy giant Eni said the supply from Gazprom was down again on Thursday due to problems at the Russian company's Portovaya plant.

Gazprom logo
Italy is heavily dependent on Russian national energy firm Gazprom for imports of natural gas, Photo by Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP

Italy will get 65 percent of the gas supplies requested on Thursday due to the ongoing supply cut, but ministers insist the shortfall is not causing problems.

Eni said it had asked for 44 percent more gas than on Wednesday, when Gazprom cut the supply by 15 percent for reasons that the Italian firm said at the time were not clear.

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

“Gazprom explained that the under-delivery is due to problems at the Portovaya plant which feeds the Nord Stream gas pipeline, through which Gazprom transports part of the volumes destined for Eni,” a spokesman for the Italian firm said.

He noted that the actual amount of gas delivered will be higher than on Wednesday.

The squeeze on gas supplies – on which Italy is heavily dependent – come amid increasing tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi visited Kyiv on Thursday on a surprise joint visit with the leaders of France and Germany, to show solidarity with the war-torn country.

“Eni’s daily gas request was approximately 44 percent higher than yesterday – an increase due to the need to recover the volumes not received yesterday, and to normal commercial dynamics,” the spokesman said.

READ ALSO: Why and how Italy will pay for Russian gas in rubles

“Gazprom announced that only 65 percent of the requested volumes will be delivered.

“The delivered volumes will therefore be slightly higher than yesterday, and will be of approximately 32 million cubic meters a day.”

Italy’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani said after Wednesday’s 15 percent reduction that the situation was not currently critical.

“The trend in gas flows is constantly monitored in cooperation with the operators and there are no critical issues at the moment,” he said in a statement.

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Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

As the European energy crisis continues, some cities in Italy have chosen to save on electricity by downsizing regular Christmas displays, thus making this year’s festivities a little less flashy.

Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

With less than a month to go until the Christmas holidays, many might be rejoicing at the prospect of finally seeing their cities lit up by dazzling Christmas displays.

But, as the European energy crisis shows no sign of abating and many cities across the boot keep struggling to square their accounts in the face of soaring bills, some residents may be disappointed to know that this year’s festive decorations might differ from the norm.

Milan, Italy’s economic capital, was one of the very first Italian cities to announce it would significantly reduce Christmas displays to save on energy.

READ ALSO: Lights off and home working: Milan’s new energy-saving plan for winter 

After reports emerged in early October that the city would end up spending a whopping €130 million on energy bills alone in 2022, Milan’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala, was quick to warn residents that Christmas decorations would be “restrained” and operate “for shorter periods of time”.

And, it wasn’t long before Sala made good on his promises. 

Earlier this month, the city’s authorities agreed on putting up decorations and light displays on December 7th (that is over two weeks after the usual date) and taking them down on January 6th instead of late January. 

Christmas lights in the streets of central Milan

Christmas lights in Milan will be switched on on December 7th, that is over two weeks after the usual switch-on date. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Also, while in previous years Milan’s city centre was illuminated overnight, this year’s Christmas lights will be switched on at 4pm and switched off at midnight. 

But, while Milan residents might be slightly dissatisfied with the new arrangements, they sure have little to complain about when compared to Rome residents. 

It’ll be a dark Christmas (literally and, perhaps, even figuratively) for most areas of the Eternal City and not merely because of the current energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: Energy crisis: The Italians reviving ‘nonna’s’ traditions to keep costs down

The city’s tender for this year’s Christmas lights contract received no bids before its deadline on October 27th, which means that, in many neighbourhoods, festive decorations will be largely left to the goodwill and financial means of the residents.

So while the popular Piazza di Spagna, Porta Pia and Via Alessandria will light up over the holiday season thanks to private funding, the San Giovanni and Tuscolano neighbourhoods and Via Cola di Rienzo are currently expected to remain au naturel.

Christmas light in a street in Rome

Many areas of the capital, Rome, will be without lights this year due to lack of funding. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Things will generally be better in Venice and Florence, where local authorities have recently chosen to maintain their usual arrangements, the only exception being the replacement of regular lights with energy-efficient, LED ones. 

So, while the lighting might be a little softer and displays might not be as remarkable as in previous years, both cities should be able to deal with late-December energy bills more comfortably than they would have had to do otherwise.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Italy has avoided a huge hike in gas prices – for now 

Having said that, not all Italian cities have decided to resize their Christmas offerings on the back of eye-watering electricity prices. 

Naples, which has long been known for the extravagance of its Christmas and New Year celebrations, has seemingly chosen to turn a blind eye to the energy crisis and will allocate as much as €1.5 million (that’s €150,000 to each one of the ten local municipalities) to this year’s displays.

Unsurprisingly, the comune’s decision has been drawing widespread criticism, with many local political figures pointing out that part, if not most, of the above-mentioned amount should have been spent elsewhere, perhaps in the form of a one-off ‘Christmas bonus’ for struggling households and businesses.

The available money should have been used to “turn off the crisis and light up people’s hearts”, city councillors Antonio Culiers and Francesco Flores said in a joint statement earlier this month.