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Not just gas: How the cost of heating has soared in Italy

The Local Italy
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Not just gas: How the cost of heating has soared in Italy
The cost of wood and other fuel supplies has risen dramatically this winter. Photo by Jennifer Dries on Unsplash

With gas bills prohibitively high, people in Italy are looking to alternative energy sources to stay warm this winter - but the cost of these is also spiralling, a new survey shows.

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Despite slightly lower-than-expected gas bills for the month of October amid unseasonably warm weather, households and business owners are still feeling the pinch.

Prices may be down compared to the third quarter of 2022, but the overall cost of gas over the past 12 months (November 2021 – October 2022) was 67 percent higher than in the previous year.

EXPLAINED: How Italy has avoided a huge hike in gas prices – for now

Italy is heavily reliant on gas, but the rising costs have led homeowners to scramble for other energy sources: there was a 28-percent increase in sales of wood-burning stoves in Italy in the first half of 2022, according to news agency Ansa.

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But those hoping to save money by using alternative energy sources to heat their homes may now be disappointed, as the latest analysis from consumer watchdog Codacons shows fuel costs are soaring across the board.

The price of firewood, wood pellets and bioethanol has spiked this winter, the organisation says, with pellets now costing an average of €12 for a 15kg bag - a 175 percent increase on last year's prices.

Firewood currently costs approximately €240 per ton, an increase of 43.7 percent on last year's cost of €167; while bioethanol costs an estimated 57 percent more this year than last, the numbers show.

Many Italian households rely on gas to power their central heating systems. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

In a 100 sq metre apartment, it would cost roughly €2,145 to heat the home using pellets, €1,180 using a natural gas boiler, €1800 using a diesel system and €750 using firewood over the course of the winter, Codacons estimates.

A combination of factors, including increased demand for non-gas energy sources across Europe and the interruption in the supply of timber from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, have conspired to drive up prices to their current high levels, experts say.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Why are wood pellets now so expensive in Italy?

Italy’s demand for both wood pellets and wood in general far exceeds its domestic production levels, so the country is heavily reliant on imports.

Aside from the high cost of running wood-based stoves and fireplaces this winter, scientists are also concerned about the environmental consequences.

"Stoves, fireplaces, wood and pellets cause an increase in atmospheric pollution levels, with damage to air quality even inside houses and repercussions for public health," Alessandro Miani, president of the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine, told Ansa.

As a result, several Italian regions have rules limiting the use of wood-burning stoves.

But there are also limits on when and for how long you can switch on your central heating in Italy – as well as how high you can turn it up. In some parts of the country, it's not deemed necessary until December. See more about these rules here.

READ ALSO: At what time of day is electricity cheapest in Italy?

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