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'We'll struggle to pay': How are people living in Italy coping with soaring energy prices?

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'We'll struggle to pay': How are people living in Italy coping with soaring energy prices?
Gas bills in Italy have risen by 93 percent over the past two years, according to consumer group Assoutenti. Photo by KWON JUNHO on Unsplash

As energy costs in Italy are expected to rise again, readers told The Local how the European fuel crisis is already resulting in bills several times higher than expected.


Italy continues to be hit hard by soaring fuel prices, as national energy regulator Arera warned last week that prices would climb by 59 percent by the end of the year. 

Gas bills in Italy have already risen by 93 percent over the past two years and the continuing conflict between Russia and Ukraine together with the damage recently suffered by Nord Stream pipelines is set to push costs even higher.

READ ALSO: Electricity bills in Italy to rise by 59 percent, says energy regulator

The Italian government has already passed a number of aid measures, with a further aid package, the decreto aiuti ter (third aid decree), currently on ministers' desks.


Outgoing prime minister Mario Draghi is also currently working to bring about an EU-wide cap on gas prices. 

But in the meantime, households and businesses are facing what many say are unmanageably high energy bills.

Arera estimates that the average Italian household will spend €1,322 on electricity bills alone in 2022, compared to €632 last year.

From the start of October, the price of electricity rose to 66.01 euro cents / KWh, up from 41.45 last quarter and an average of around 23 in 2021.

Without government interventions to cap the increase at 59 percent, the regulator says electricity costs would have doubled this quarter.

A picture taken on August 28, 2022 shows an incandescent light bulb with a residential building seen in reflection on a window after sunset in Lausanne.
The average Italian family's electricity bill is set to rise by 59 percent. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

To understand how the energy crisis is affecting people in Italy, we put out a survey asking how much your bills had risen in recent months.

We received a range of responses, with some readers reporting extreme price hikes, and a small number seeing no change at all as a result of being temporarily locked in to optional fixed-rate contracts.

The majority of respondents, however, said they'd been hit with prohibitively high bills in recent months that some worry they'll struggle to afford.

Several readers reported seeing their energy bills rise by as much as six or seven times compared to the same period last year.

"Recent price rises have seen the unit cost of electricity on my bills increase by a factor of 6. I am now spending more than 10 percent of my income on energy, a figure used to define the term "fuel poverty" in the UK," said Gary in Lombardy.


A Canadian who lives in Florence wrote that they initially paid €143 for 871 kwh for the month of July. "Then, weeks later my landlord sends me an ADJUSTMENT for euros 970 for 1,015 kwh, same period of July. It was a huge shock.

"I will no longer use my air conditioning, but the damage is done and I wish there could have been a warning. We will struggle to pay it."

READ ALSO: Portofino mayor offers residents €400 to offset energy bills

One Brit in Ceglie Messapica, a town in the southern region of Puglia, said their typical costs for the month of August range between €125 and €150, but this year had surged as high as €621. Rob, an Australian who also lives in Puglia, said his bills had also gone up sixfold.

Others have seen prices climb at a slightly less alarming rate. One reader who lives in the Lazio region, outside Rome, saw their bills double, as did a British respondent in Sicily.

Energy prices in Italy have soared since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

Energy prices in Italy have soared since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP.

Energy-saving strategies

Even those readers who hadn't yet seen any changes to their bills were cautious, and planned on taking measures to reduce their energy consumption over the winter.

Penelope Hart in Rome said her energy bills for this past summer were no higher than in previous years, but "even so, I'm watching every move. I’ve stopped using the dishwasher and the oven."

Almost all of those who responded plan to limit their fuel use this year through a combination of cutting down on heating, wearing more layers, turning lights off and restricting their use of appliances. Some will resort to tougher measures.


The British reader who lives in Ceglie Messapica said their house lacks insulation, "so we will be living in one room and heating it only."

Hart said she plans to set a fire every morning that she will also use for cooking to reduce her reliance on gas and central heating.

"I'll have tiny baths," she added. "I’m washing dishes in a bowl as I did when I was young."

Wood pellets and contract-hunting

The fuel crisis has left consumers scrambling for alternative energy sources, and wood pellets are a popular option. But the sudden demand has caused prices to skyrocket, putting them out of reach for many.

"Last year a 15kg bag of pellets for heating was five euros, the same bag is now 11.50 euros, pure profiteering," said the Ceglie Messapica resident.

Another reader wrote in to say that prices in their area had risen from €4.80 a bag last year to €13.50 this year.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on using wood-burning stoves in Italy?

Fireplace with burning fire.

With the cost of gas and electricity soaring, some households are seeking alternative heat and energy sources. Photo by Stephane DE SAKUTIN / AFP

Some readers were even considering relocating in response to the increased fuel prices.

"I do not plan to spend another 40C summer in Italy, this further supports reasons for me to move back to Canada," wrote the Canadian reader in Florence.

One American reader who lives in Naples said they would be spending winter in the US, even though they hadn't yet experienced any increase in their energy bills.


A few respondents have switched providers in a bid to keep their costs down. Two readers said they had switched to Enel, citing a combination of higher prices at other companies and a two-year 40 percent introductory discount as reasons for the move.

Another commented that they had previously had cheaper bills under contract with IdeaEnergia, and that their relatives in Rome had had good rates with EniPlenitude.

But with wholesale gas and electricity tariffs as high as they currently are, it's unclear how much of a difference switching providers will make at this point.

Said one British reader who has seen their energy bills rise by 55 percent so far this year, "It looks like we will be wearing some very heavy clothing."


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