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ENERGY

Italy’s ENI ready to pay guarantee to unblock Russian gas

Italian giant Eni said Monday it is ready to provide a 20-million-euro guarantee to restart deliveries of Russian gas through Austria, after a stoppage blamed on regulatory changes.

Gazprom completely suspended gas deliveries to Eni on Saturday, citing the “impossibility of gas transport through Austria” due to a new regulation.
Gazprom completely suspended gas deliveries to Eni on Saturday, citing the “impossibility of gas transport through Austria” due to a new regulation. Photo by PACO SERINELLI / AFP.

The gas delivery was suspended Saturday because Russia’s Gazprom failed to provide a newly-imposed guarantee to the carrier transporting it from Austria to Italy, Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi said.

“We are seeing if we take over” and provide the 20 million euros, he said, adding that he hoped that “the problem can be resolved this week”.

“The stoppage is absolutely not due to geopolitical reasons,” Descalzi said on the sidelines of a Rome conference.

Speaking about Gazprom, he added that “it is difficult to imagine that a company that wants to pay in rubles can provide guarantees in euros.”

Gazprom completely suspended gas deliveries to Eni on Saturday, citing the “impossibility of gas transport through Austria” due to a new regulation that came into force on October 1.

READ ALSO: Russia suspends gas to Italy after ‘problem’ in Austria

Most of Russian gas delivered to Italy passes via Ukraine through the Trans Austria Gas Pipeline (TAG), to Tarvisio in northern Italy on the border with Austria.

Before Saturday’s suspension, Italy received some 20 million cubic metres of Russian gas per day — or “about nine to 10 percent” of its gas imports, Descalzi said.

That compares to 40 percent before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi has signed new deals with other gas producers to reduce Italy’s reliance on Russia, and has been racing to fill up the country’s gas stores before winter.

Italy has already hit its target of filling its stores to 90 percent and is “in the process of increasing it”, Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani said Sunday.

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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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