Electricity bills for the average family could rise by anywhere between 17 and 25 percent from the start of next year, while gas bills are set to increase by as much as 50 percent, warned Davide Tabarelli, president of the research institute Nomisma Energia, in an interview with news agency Ansa on Wednesday.
Italian households recently saw a significant hike to their energy bills in October, when the price of electricity increased by 28.9 percent and gas by 14.4 percent.
At the time, Italy’s government stepped in and allocated three billion euros to offset some of the costs and shield end consumers from the worst of the price increases.
Without the measures, the increase passed on to individuals could have reached 45 percent, Italy’s energy regulatory authority Arera said.
But energy costs in Italy are now set to soar again unless the government commits to setting additional price caps, Tabarelli warns.
Without further state intervention, “the two or three billion to be allocated in the budget to reduce bills is a little thing,” he told Ansa.
Italy isn’t the only country to be affected by surging energy costs.
Europe as a whole is facing soaring power prices as its economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, while natural gas reserves on the continent are at a worryingly low level.
Italy in particular consumes a large amount of gas compared to its European neighbours: some 40 percent of its primary energy consumption is gas, compared with about 15 percent in France, according to official statistics for both countries.
Tabarelli pointed to a reduction in the amount of gas delivered to Europe from Russia as one of the key causes of the crisis.
This is partly due to aging transportation networks, and partly to Moscow’s efforts to apply pressure on European governments to give the necessary approvals to open its Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the launch for which was pushed back by Germany’s energy regulator to at least March 2022, he said.
He also highlighted a push by China and other countries to transition their main energy supply from coal to natural gas, increasing global demand on the energy source.
“Energy companies are investing more in renewables and less in fossils, but the demand for gas isn’t decreasing,” Tabarelli said.
His concerns are echoed by the non-profit Italian consumer rights organisation Consumerismo.
The organisation has calculated that if prices rise as predicted, the average family in Italy will spend 3,368 euros on energy bills in 2022 – an increase of 1,227 euros on 2021 – reports Ansa.
It recommends that the government allocates at least 10 billion euros “to counter increases and speculations on international energy markets, and avoid the maxi-sting that is about to hit consumers.”