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ENERGY

Milan blackouts blamed on air conditioning as heatwave intensifies

A series of blackouts has left parts of Italy's economic capital in the dark for hours at a time in recent days, after power usage in the city soared amid temperatures far beyond seasonal averages.

Milan blackouts blamed on air conditioning as heatwave intensifies
The demand for electricity is coonstant rising in densely-populated Milan, says the head of the city's energy network. File photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

As northern Italy swelters in temperatures of up to 36C with high humidity, a massive increase in electricity usage for cooling day and night has reportedly pushed the city’s electricity grid beyond its limits.

Milan’s world-famous Duomo on Thursday was forced to cancel the evening opening of its terraces due to the blackouts, shops were left without light or air conditioning, and disruption continued over the past few days in “all four corners of the city” according to local news outlet MilanoToday.

Electricity supplies continued to cut out on Tuesday for “half an hour here, an hour there, two, three, or even 14 hours,” MilanoToday reported 

“Long and shorter blackouts occurred in several areas of the city. From Viale Fulvio Testi to Piazzale Macciachini, Viale Sarca and Viale Jenner, many buildings were left in the dark due to the breakdowns,” the report read.

It was impossible to see how bad the situation was overall as there was no list of affected areas or overview available from the city’s electricity provider Unareti, reports noted.

HEATWAVE: 16 Italian cities on alert with peaks of 43C

Unareti told the city’s local edition of newspaper Corriere della Sera the issues were being “resolved in the vast majority of cases in a few minutes”.

Energy consumption in the city has reportedly increased by ten percent as temperatures rose over the last week and by 35 percent in a month amid a series of increasingly intense early summer heatwaves.

Milan is already among the European cities with the highest electrical power requirements per square kilometre, equal to five times that of Rome.

The city needs an ever-higher power supply due to demand for electric appliances, as well as electric vehicles, Unareti’s managing director Francesco Gerli told Corriere della Sera.

He said the “increasing use of air conditioners” as well as the move away from gas appliances is partly driving the surge in demand in central Milan, which covers “a relatively small area, completely urbanized, quite vertical”.

“There are now entire neighbourhoods where the power lines are electricity: the gas network is not even considered,” he said, pointing out that residents are buying electric “induction hobs instead of gas cookers, heat pumps instead of boilers, electric cars”.

With demand for electric appliances rising and 30 percent of vehicles in Milan expected to be electric by 2030, Unereti is working on increasing network capacity, he said.

Milan residents affected by electricity blackouts can check the situation in their area via the Unereti website.

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ENERGY

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.

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