Italy to revise gas emergency plan but rules out rationing

Drivers queue up outside a gas station to fill up their cars as gasoline prices keep rising in Catania, Italy, March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello
  • Italy will look at alternative scenarios in updated gas plan
  • Further cut in Russian gas could trigger tougher measures
  • Italian manufacturers, unions warn about punishing energy costs

MILAN, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Italy will update its gas emergency plan next week, a government source said on Thursday, adding Rome will not resort to rationing since it has cut its reliance on Russian imports.

The updated emergency plan, however, envisages tougher measures that would be triggered in the event of a further reduction or a complete halt of gas supplies from Moscow.

"The updated plan includes different scenarios, even the worst-case one, and envisages tougher measures in case of further reduction of (gas) flows," the source told Reuters.

Italy's existing gas emergency protocol envisages three stages going from a state of pre-alert, imposed at the end of February after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, before moving to one of alert and then to a state of emergency.

Rome has already acted to cut gas usage by 7% this year through steps including the reduction of heating by 1 degree Celsius in public and private residential buildings in the second half of 2022. read more

Rome last year got 40% of the gas it imported from Russia, an important resource used to produce its electricity.

The source said that the government's efforts to find alternative suppliers have cut the share of imported Russian gas to around 18% in the summer.

One key additional measure is to have a new regasification vessel operational in the Tuscan port of Piombino by March 2023 to expand the country's LNG capacity, the source added.

Gas and electricity prices have risen to historic highs in Italy and in many European countries as Moscow has restricted gas supplies to the bloc in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

Carlo Bonomi, head of Italy's industrial lobby Confindustria, this week warned of the risk of widespread company failures if energy prices do not fall.

Bonomi asked for a government plan for rationing gas and new government subsidies to shield manufacturers.

Unions also urged the government to protect jobs and wages.

"Workers in energy-intensive industry -- starting with the steel sector -- will face a dramatic situation ... given the energy costs and the ongoing slowdown in some sectors in Europe, starting with automotive," said the head of Italy's metal-worker union FIOM-CGIL Michele De Palma in a statement.

The government has spent 52 billion euros so far this year on a series of measures to help shield firms and families from surging energy costs and rising consumer prices. read more

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Francesca Landini; writing by Francesca Landini, editing by Federico Maccioni and Keith Weir

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.