Italy announces emergency measures to deal with gas shortage

Italy announced today it was taking emergency measures to keep the country warm while Europe’s cold snap disrupts Russian gas supplies to Italy.

Claiming that the Russian people need more gas than normal to heat their homes and businesses this year, Russian energy giant Gazprom has reduced its gas exports to Western Europe, the Associated Press reported. Italian energy company ENI told the AP that Russian gas deliveries to Italy are about 20 percent less than normal.

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At the same time, gas usage in Italy has soared to record levels as frigid temperatures grip the country. Some 17 people have died in Italy since temperatures dropped, and snow closed Rome’s Collosseum and the Roman Forum, BBC News reported.

More from GlobalPost: Europe's cold snap kills hundreds, affects transport, tourism (VIDEO)

Italy’s Industry Ministry said it had decided to temporarily cut gas supplies to businesses that had signed "interruptible" gas contracts, Reuters reported. These businesses pay lower rates in exchange for being the first to face cutoffs in emergencies, according to the AP.

Officials said Italy would also heat some power stations with oil to make up for some off the lost output of gas-fired plants, Reuters reported.

Businesses complained about the government’s plan.

"The conditions do not justify, as a first move, the interruption of supplies to companies. It seems to us a priority to act on the reserves (storage) that are available," said Paolo Culicchi, the president of Gas Intensive, a gas consortium of 300 Italian energy-intensive companies, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters:

Italy, which consumed some 78 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas in 2010, is 90 percent dependent on imported gas. In 2010 it imported some 22 bcm from Russia and around 25 bcm from Algeria.

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