Ministers said on Friday the government would act to limit the impact of the recent surge in energy prices on households and businesses, with a new decree expected to be released by the end of August, according to newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Gas and electricity prices have risen to historic highs in Italy and other European countries as Russia, on which Italy is heavily dependent for gas, restricted supplies in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.
Gas prices shot up this week to 321 euros per megawatt hour – a rate Italian business groups slammed as ‘unsustainable’ and consumer groups described as an ‘emergency’.
The price of gas at the beginning of July was below 100 euros per mw/h.
Electricity prices also continued to soar this week, reaching 718 euros per megawatt hour in Italy.
“Action must be taken in the next few days”, said deputy economy minister Laura Castelli.
“There is scope for a new decree to calm the effects of the price of gas,” she told Corriere.
Castelli said “an upper limit must be quickly fixed on the price of gas” as well, adding that “a battle within the EU is underway” on this point.
The government was likely to extend existing tax cuts on fuel and energy prices under the decree, according to media reports, though no official announcements had been made.
The government so far has spent nearly 50 billion euros this year on a series of measures to help firms and families with surging energy costs and rising consumer prices.
Carlo Bonomi, head of Italy’s industrial lobby Confindustria, this week warned of the risk of widespread company failures if energy prices don’t come down.
Bonomi urged the government to create a plan for rationing gas and to provide new subsidies to shield manufacturers.
Italy’s existing gas emergency protocol envisages three stages going from a state of pre-alert, imposed at the end of February after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, before moving to one of alert and then to a state of emergency.
The government is meanwhile also reportedly bringing forward the implementation of a new energy saving plan aimed at cutting the nation’s gas and electricity consumption amid concerns about energy security.
The government announced in July that the plan includes a new limit on the use of heating air conditioning in public buildings.
It is now expected to include a “second part that provides for more severe savings”, Corriere reported, to be implemented immediately instead of waiting for winter as previously planned.
The final energy-saving plan is expected to be published by Wednesday, August 31st, at the latest, Corriere reported: the same day Russian energy provider Gazprom will close the Nord Stream gas pipeline to Europe until September 2nd, saying the stoppage is for “maintenance” reasons.
Outgoing prime minister Mario Draghi will now oversee the launch of the energy-saving measures, after saying in July that this would be left to the next government following early elections called for September 25th.
Italy is one of Europe’s biggest consumers of gas, which currently represents 42 percent of its energy consumption, and it imports 95 percent of the gas it uses.
Draghi’s government has been working to lessen the country’s reliance on Russian gas, with ministers predicting Italy will be “independent” from Russia’s gas supply by the middle of 2023.