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Italy approves $3.5 billion package to curb energy costs

ROME (Reuters) -Italy approved measures on Wednesday to help families and firms cope with surging energy costs and boost gas storage amid a Russian supply squeeze, ministers said.

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi attends a news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Kyiv, Ukraine June 16, 2022. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The package is worth around 3.3 billion euros ($3.50 billion), according to a draft seen by Reuters.

It comes on top of more than 30 billion euros budgeted since January to soften the impact of sky-high electricity, gas and petrol costs, which are weighing on the growth prospects of the euro zone’s third-largest economy.

The scheme mainly focuses on extending to the third-quarter measures aimed at cutting electricity and gas bills for enterprises and households.

As part of the package, gas importers will have to pay a contribution each month until March 2023 to reduce consumers’ energy bills, the draft showed, adding that Rome would refund the money to firms that report losses.

Family Minister Elena Bonetti told reporters the government also plans to extend a cut of 25 cents per litre in excise duties on fuel at the pump, which otherwise would expire on July 8.

The draft seen by Reuters includes a measure to help energy groups secure cheaper financing to buy gas for storage.

Italy’s credits export agency SACE, which is controlled by the Treasury, will guarantee financing for companies that need to replenish their gas stocks.

Rome has said it plans to have the country’s gas storage system filled to at least 90% of capacity by November, in line with an EU-wide target, up from 55% at present.

Italian energy group Eni said its request for gas from Russia’s Gazprom for Wednesday had been only partially confirmed, the eighth straight day that the company will have received less gas than requested from Moscow.

Italy gets about 40% of its imported gas from Russia and, like other EU nations, has begun efforts to diversify its energy supply mix in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

($1 = 0.9438 euros)

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Gavin Jones, Alison Williams and Nick Macfie

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