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Italy considers new fuel poverty monitor as energy prices soar By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A closed petrol pump is seen in Chuquiaguillo, on the outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia, November 17, 2019. REUTERS/David Mercado

By Stephen Jewkes and Giuseppe Fonte

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy is looking to monitor fuel poverty as part of broader plans to reform the energy market and temper price increases for consumers, a government decree showed.

Under the plan, presented to parliament for a non-binding opinion, a national observatory for fuel poverty would be set up at the Energy Transition ministry within 90 days of the decree coming into effect.

The decree, which still needs a final nod from government, is designed to transpose into national law EU legislation aimed at putting the consumer at the heart of energy markets.

The surge in retail power prices has stoked tensions between European Union countries over the energy transition, with some saying new green policies could inflate consumer bills.

In September, Rome set aside more than 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion) to curb a sharp rise in retail energy bills triggered by soaring gas prices.

It is currently working on a series of longer-term measures to reduce so-called systems costs in bills, possibly by booking them in the general tax system.

Systems charges, such as nuclear decommissioning costs and renewable energy incentives, account for around 20% of Italian consumer bills.

According to the decree, when liberalisation of Italy’s energy markets is complete in 2023, suppliers will have to offer clients who are deemed vulnerable power at a price reflecting, among other things, wholesale market prices.

Energy regulator ARERA will have to publish monthly reference figures on wholesale prices to inform end users – at least till the end of 2025, it said.

ARERA currently sets power prices for consumers who are still on the non-liberalised retail market – about a third of the total.

The measures come as pressure mounts on governments across Europe to curb energy bills to help families and small businesses as economies emerge from the pandemic.

Last week Brussels said it would explore moves to cushion price spikes, including the idea of joint gas purchasing among countries.

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