Gas, the government’s savings plan: measures in place

Radiators -1 degree and an hour less. Next week, a decree with support for families and businesses

Turn off the radiators one hour earlier in private homes and public offices, lowering them by one degree to bring them from 20 to 19. The government is working to present a plan with a proposal for reduction of energy consumption. For now, Italy does not follow other European countries struggling with the gas emergency. If shop windows go out first in France and Germany, if Paris has already taken into account rationing for businesses, Rome starts with caution. The windows will not go out first, nor are there any reasoning on the hypothesis of sending public employees into smart working, rumors circulated in recent days. The only immediate measure, which will come with a ministerial decree that will be signed in a few days, is to turn off the radiators an hour earlier in private homes and public offices, lowering them by one degree to bring them from 20 to 19. This, according to ‘ briefing by the head of the ecological transition Roberto Cingolani in the Council of Ministers, the only immediate intervention. In addition to the decree that will arrive next week, with support for families and businesses and which will be “important”, assures one of the ministers involved in the dossier.

But – on the front of the energy saving plan developed by Cingolani – no acceleration is foreseen, because “the situation does not require it”, the head of the MITE would have clarified during the CDM. There will be commercials, on TV and radio, where an attempt will be made to raise awareness among Italians on the importance of energy saving, on how much the difference – in terms of cubic meters of gas saved – does not make endless showers or forget the light on. On how much you can scrape your bill with small tricks, such as turning off the TV instead of leaving it on stand by or buying halogen bulbs. And when, during the meeting, someone asks for clarification on schools – because the hypothesis cherished by school administrators to return to Dad or to reduce the week in the classroom to promote energy saving was ridden in the electoral campaign – the government’s stance is clear: no mention is made of it. “Let’s not joke”, Cingolani snaps; “the schools do not touch, the children have already paid for the pandemic on their own skin …”, the reasoning that some sources present at the meeting attribute to Prime Minister Mario Draghi, tell Adnkronos.

On the business front, Cingolani would have confirmed that two packages of controlled prices will arrive for the energy-intensive and gas-intensive ones, leveraging internal energy production to help those who threaten to close their doors in these hours. At the moment, the head of the MITE would also have clarified, no rationing of industrial consumption is envisaged: this will be achieved – but on a voluntary basis with the interruptibility service – only if the situation should precipitate, or if Moscow were to turn off the taps.

Cingolani recalled that next Monday he will fly to Brussels – where the extraordinary meeting of the EU Council of Energy Ministers is convened on the 9th – and assured that Italy is ready to battle for the roof over the price of gas, noting that from Germany openings on the price cap have arrived. Above all, the head of the MITE reminded his colleagues that Italy has done its homework, the government numbers speak for themselves: the dependence on Moscow gas has been cut from 40 to 18%, the filling level of the storage has exceeded 81%. But there is the unknown regasifier that worries Cingolani, a worry also for the Prime Minister: if it is not built in Piombino, there is the “real risk of going into an emergency in March 2023”, the owner of the Mild.

The plan will be sent to Brussels by 15 October, a deadline set peremptorily by Europe. On those pages – which Cingolani should present to the press shortly – all the scenarios are outlined, from the current ones to the darkest ones, that is, if Russia were to opt for an even harder line and stop gas supplies. In this case, companies should not be asked for rationing, but for the activation of the interruptibility service on a voluntary basis, leaving companies to decide.

Expensive energy and bills

The government is therefore also working to give the green light next week to the new bill decree to loosen the grip of expensive energy on businesses and families. But the resource node remains critical: if energy companies also paid the tax due on extra-profits, resources of around 3 billion would be made available. To these should be added the extra revenue from tax and fiscal collection, but these resources would not reach the approximately 10 billion necessary to finance all the measures in question. We should therefore look in the folds of the budget, given that the Draghi government does not intend to resort to the extra deficit. And the scenario would not change even the increase in GDP in the second quarter announced today by Istat (1.1% against 1% of the previous estimate and 4.7% against 4.6% indicated at the end of July), given that one decimal it would no longer impact the denominator of the GDP deficit ratio in an incisive way, giving more room for maneuver. In any case, with the vote of 25 September at the gates, the game of political forces on the deviation is open.

Meanwhile, technical and political meetings continue in the ministries involved to define the new measures. The provision will include the rules for the renewal and possibly the strengthening of the tax credit for energy-intensive companies in the first place; the reduction of system charges and the renewal of the Cig for companies in difficulty. As for the parliamentary process of the new dl, it would aim for a lightning-fast approval in this Parliament before the dissolution of the Chamber and Senate, if possible. Alternatively, the examination would pass to the new Chambers.