Italy eying power bill reform as energy costs soar - sources

Power lines connecting pylons of high-tension electricity are seen in Montalto Di Castro, Italy, August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo

MILAN, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Italy is looking to review the way electricity bills are calculated in an effort to curb prices at a time when energy costs are running high, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Energy transition minister Roberto Cingolani said on Monday retail power prices in Italy were set to rise by 40% in the next quarter, driven by higher international gas prices and carbon permit costs.

The price rise, if confirmed by the regulator who sets electricity prices on the non-liberalised retail market every three months, follows a rise of 9.9% in the previous quarter.

That increase would have been around 20% if Rome had not injected 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) of resources to cut the so-called 'oneri di sistema', or system, costs.

A 40% rise in power bills would lead to higher costs for families of 1,300 euros a year, according to consumer group Assoutenti.

The reform under consideration would include a review of the system costs item in consumer bills, one of the sources said, adding one proposal could be to book them in the general tax system.

The reform is expected this year, the source said.

According to Davide Tabarelli, head of energy think tank Nomisma Energia, taking system costs out of final consumer bills could offset price rises triggered by commodity prices that he said are "destined to keep rising".

"But it won't be easy because many of these items are energy related," he said.

System costs, which include things like overheads to cover renewable energy incentives and nuclear safety, account on average for more than 20% of the final bill for Italians.

In its quarterly review, the energy regulator sets power prices for consumers still on the non-liberalised retail market - about a third of the total. Italy is looking to complete liberalisation of its retail power market in 2023.

The move by Rome comes as governments across Europe come under pressure to curb energy bills to help families and small businesses as economies slowly emerge from the pandemic.

On Monday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Spain would cap gas prices, cut taxes and redirect energy company profits as part of a package to bring down soaring electricity prices. read more

Elevated demand for natural gas, tight supply conditions and costlier emissions permits have sent power prices surging in many countries, with forward prices indicating the problem is unlikely to go away before winter. read more

($1 = 0.8451 euros)

(This story has been refiled to clarify previous quarter in paragraph 3)

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes Editing by Mark Potter

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