It was supposed to be a transition, it will be a shock instead. In the word transition we can read veiled shades, soft sensations, intrinsic progressiveness. When the Minister for Ecological Transition, Roberto Cingolani, admits instead that in the next quarter electricity bills will increase by 40%, then here is that there is little of “transition”.
The causes? Let’s stick to the words of the minister himself: “it happens because the price of gas at the international level increases, it happens because the price of the CO2 produced also increases“. Two very different elements, thrown at a public opinion unwilling to understand and certainly well ready to j’accuse against politics and the highest systems. The two problems, however, must be addressed individually because they pertain to two completely different spheres.
Electricity: the causes of price increases
L’increase in the price of gas it would be linked to the excessive demand expected for the next few months and to a certain shortage in supplies. But behind all this it is impossible not to point out the delays with which Europe has faced its dependence on Russia, thus lending its side to the ups and downs of the market by virtue of this fragility. If public opinion has often turned its back on issues such as the North Stream pipelines between the Baltic Sea and Germany, now it will suddenly have to experience the consequences of that choice. Italy has repeatedly proposed alternative solutions (also thanks to Eni’s presence in the African continent), but it was Germany that made the loud voice and today the EU is hanging on to the gas taps controlled by Moscow. In short: there is a great deal of geopolitics behind the rise in gas prices and a lot will still have to be in a world of interconnected networks and an old continent forced to import this natural source. Our main supplies today are called Transmed (from Algeria), Greenstream (from Libya) and North Stream (from Russia): when it comes to foreign policy in recent years, a lot will be linked to energy policies and the search for autarchic balances that can make individual countries less dependent on any external interference. Tensions, faced with increases of this caliber, will inevitably be destined to increase.
Gas in Europe (source: Eni Report)
To link gas and energy is the fact that today gas (apart from renewables) is the least polluting and most available source for the production of electricity through gas turbine or combined cycle plants. For this reason, natural gas is by far the most important source for electricity production, with Italy particularly exposed on this front. However, dreams of magnetic confinement fusion are still very far away, so in the meantime we have to deal with reality. And reality is called gas.
Add to all this the theme of green rods and the cost that fossil fuel users will face for their own CO2 production. There are costs that the policy imposes to encourage the transition to new tools (gas is the next step to coal, an intermediate step towards a more renewable balance), but which for the time being will largely be passed on to consumers. .
If energy increases too much in cost, our businesses lose competitiveness and citizens, especially those with low to medium income, struggle further to pay for basic goods such as electricity at home. These things need to be considered because they are equally important to the ecological transition
Inevitably, we must also put the chimera of renewable: in a world in which the demand for energy rises faster than the supply, it is for the moment utopian to think that any problem can be solved with renewables. If anything, we need to act on a triple front: increase production, differentiate sources (photovoltaic, wind and hydroelectric, for example, produce important complementarities) and reduce consumption. Only by abounding in ambition can some minimum long-term results be achieved.
The shadow of the nuclear finally, it is the ultimate bugbear, the one to which politics will return to pour out its tensions sooner or later. A hot topic, on which Italy has taken a stand several times and for which further and even more profound divisions could mature too easily.
The opportunity of the free market?
Against the background of these high-profile and long-range issues is the everyday life of bills, of people who are struggling to make ends meet and who will now face rising costs between 250 and 500 euros per family. In this context, we must remember where we come from: from an Italy that, with the usual delays and postponements, has carried out the transition to free market, except only later to realize how some companies have basically acted with little transparency. The result? The free market did not bring the desired savings, the Antitrust had to carry out 13 investigative proceedings and the warnings resulted in the failure of this first attempt.
Now the cost of energy will increase substantially: is this the right opportunity for electricity and gas offers on the free market? Will companies now have more leeway to try to really compete and grab a growing share of incoming demand to escape the announced price hikes?
Everyone hopes that the free market on the one hand and politics on the other will be able to contain the shock. Because it is not with shocks on the wallet that one can imagine what was promised as a “transition”.