With the approach of autumn and the physiological increase in consumption, the emergency bills is back in the limelight. And even the leaders have noticed it in full election campaign. As pointed out by the regulator of the energy sector Arera in a document sent to the government and Parliament on 29 July, without any intervention by the executive, the increases for the October-December quarter would be over 100% and the Aid decree bis it is not enough to avoid “variations that never occurred”. This while the Russian gas supplies increasingly uncertain. The last signal was the announcement by Gazprom of the decision to interrupt the flows in the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from 31 August to 2 September for maintenance.
To get an idea of how much the increases in energy prices have affected consumers so far, it is necessary to distinguish between customers of the protected market and those who have switched to the free market. It should be remembered that the protection service will end, for families, in January 2024 for electricity and already a January 2023 for gas. According to Arera data, with regard to electricity, domestic customers who have not yet chosen a supplier and still rely on protection are the 35.81% (out of a total of almost 30 million active points) while those of the free market the 64.19%. In the natural gas sector, the percentages are similar: 35.6% of users under protection, equal to 7.3 million out of a total of 20.4 million. With prices on international markets completely out of control, who had signed a contract at a fixed price on the free market in this period it was unlike that in the past more protected than customers under the protection regime.
In the latest tariff update, that of 30 June, the Authority calculated that the expenditure of the “typical family” protected for the bill electric will stand at 1,071 euros in the rolling year that runs from 1 October 2021 to 30 September 2022, a jump of 91% compared to the previous 12 months. In the same period, however, the gas will weigh for 1,696 euros on the pockets of protected customers, an increase equal to 70.7%. In the third quarter, the situation is set to worsen. And this despite the over 30 billion euros allocated by the Draghi government since the autumn of last year to counteract the increases. In the absence of interventions, Arera estimates, in the third quarter of 2022 instead of a zero change for gas and 0.4% for electricity, the increases would have been 45% and 15% respectively.
The Authority has attempted to take action by modifying the methods used to determine the price of gas for protected customers: from October, the indexation of tariffs will no longer take place on the basis of the prices of three-month futures contracts traded at Ttf of Amsterdam, but will be linked to the monthly average of the prices of the Italian wholesale market, the Psv (Virtual exchange point). Furthermore, also to take into account the initiatives that could – but at this point it seems difficult – be taken at European and Italian level to limit gas prices, such as the famous price cap, the rate update will no longer be quarterly but monthly. The hope is that the new methodology, reflecting more faithfully the cost of gas, will be more advantageous. How much, however, is not yet known.
However, it is up to the government to allocate the funds that the Authority can use to contain the costs borne by consumers. The latest intervention of Palazzo Chigi, the Aid Bis decree of 9 August, aimed at combating the rise in bills and fuel 8.4 billion euros, extending the discounts provided for by the previous decrees. Among the various measures adopted there is a novelty that will be appreciated by consumers but risks turning out to be a boomerang for public accounts. This is Article 3 which provides, until 30 April 2023, the moratorium unilateral changes to contracts in the free market. In other words, companies that deal with the retail sale of gas and electricity will not be able to change prices. “Until 30 April 2023” reads the decree “è the effectiveness of any contractual clause suspended which allows the company supplying electricity and natural gas to unilaterally modify the general terms and conditions relating to the definition of the price even if the right of withdrawal is contractually recognized to the counterpart “.
The forecast goes in the direction of protecting customers who, perhaps by virtue of a contract signed years ago, can count on reduced prices compared to the current ones. Even if it will not “save” those who are about to reach the expiry of the period with a fixed price. But there is a risk that they will occur bankruptcies to a chain of retailers who, by supplying themselves on a market whose prices have exploded, will be forced to supply gas and electricity at practically frozen prices. If any default – which has already happened in several European countries, most recently Germany – consumers would pay through “a increase in costs to be socialized by the general public end customers ”, as Arera warned.
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