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ENERGY

EXPLAINED: How much are energy prices rising in Italy this autumn?

With further energy cost hikes announced by regulator Arera last week, we look at how high prices could climb - and ask readers how Italy's ongoing fuel crisis is impacting you.

Gas bills in Italy have risen by 93 percent over the past two years, according to consumer group Assoutenti.
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

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.

‘We will struggle to pay’

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% 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 Australia who also lives in Puglia, said his bills had also gone up sixfold.

Others have seen their 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 1 room & 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 5 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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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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