Is Italy underestimating the upcoming stangata on energy bills?

by Marco Dell'Aguzzo

Minister Cingolani reassures: despite the gas crisis, for Italy next winter will be "well sustainable" compared to the rest of Europe. But experts – from Clò to Tabarelli – are not so optimistic. And Arera announces new increases in bills

The Minister of Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani  recently told Tg1 that "a winter certainly awaits us, given the international situation, and sobriety of consumption that never hurts, but still well sustainable compared to that of European colleagues". He was referring to the limitation of natural gas flows by Russia, which until last year was the first supplier to Italy (and the European Union) with a share of about 40 percent.

In preparation for their possible reset in winter, Brussels has asked member states to replenish their stocks and limit (but on a voluntary basis) the use of fuel until next March.


In this regard, Cingolani assured that "Italy has diversified its supplies very quickly. Dependence on Russian gas has dropped from 40% a few months ago to about 15% and in 2024 we would be totally independent. We are accelerating with storage, today they have reached 75% and are proceeding towards the target of 90% full by the end of October".


The minister's words, however, did not convince Alberto Clò, an expert on energy issues and director of the magazine Energia. In an interview with Fatto Quotidiano, the former Minister of Industry declared that "we are not better than others, as Cingolani says" and that "we should prepare for the worst, in the sense that we should have prepared a rationing plan".


"These assurances," he added, "are unjustified and denied by the regulator." In the report at the end of July, in fact, the Arera (Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and the Environment) had spoken of "difficulties [...] to find on the wholesale markets the volumes necessary to meet the demand" for gas and anticipated the possibility of an "increase of more than 100 percent compared to the current quarter" of energy bills starting from next October.


In the interview, Clò acknowledges the efforts of Mario Draghi's government to find alternative gas suppliers to Russia (Algeria, in the first place). But he also underlined how "the choice to entrust Snam with the filling of the storage", however necessary, "ended up raising the prices" of gas.

The prodian economist also wonders how much more the government will have to spend – in addition to the 35 billion already allocated – to mitigate the impact of rising bill prices on families, especially the most vulnerable. In Germany , the government of Olaf Scholz announced today the lowering of the gas tax to 7 percent to protect consumers. In Italy, the VAT on methane has already been raised to 5 percent, and will remain there until the end of December with the Aiuti bis decree.


As for the European Union, Clò argues that the blockade could remain without gas in winter and yet "it sails on sight, it seems that we do not know things". He also criticized the plan to reduce fuel consumption given its voluntary nature.


Davide Tabarelli – professor of economics at the University of Bologna and president of the research company Nomisma Energia – had already called the European agreement "surreal" and "pure madness" because of voluntary participation. "But above all, another absurdity," he added, "I would like to understand if and when the countries themselves will put this invitation into practice. Look, governments are afraid of people's anger, it's not that easy."

Tabarelli argues for the need to "ration, but seriously" gas.


The co-founder of Fratelli d'Italia Guido Crosetto, heard by the newspaper Verità & Affari, thinks that a hypothetical center-right government after the September elections should "act immediately to lower energy prices and to protect companies and weaker classes".

To do this, he believes that it is necessary "to streamline the procedures for drilling, to open new regasification plants, to return momentarily, as long as it is necessary, to use any resource, even coal".