france  '  united kingdom

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In the recent years, the Italian natural gas market was subject to imbalances between supply and demand, especially during winter peaks in consumption. As a short-term solution, the government had taken various measures such as implementing interruptibility clauses for suppliers, obliging importers to subscribe to a strategic storage service and maximise supplies, reducing tariffs for use of transport services outside peak periods... Most of these measures are applied just before winter, when the government anticipates a risk of imbalance and launches emergency procedures. To explain this situation, we must remember that in Italy, from 1990 to 2006, demand for gas rose an average of 3.7% a year. At the same time, national production started to decline in the second half of the 90s, at an average annual rate of 5.5% until 2006 while, over the same period, imports rose by 7.5% a year.

However, the periodically critical situation of the Italian system cannot be explained exclusively by an annual imbalance within the system. It is also due to an imbalance between supply and demand on a daily basis recorded at specific seasonal periods. Indeed, according to a report presented in October 2007 by Mr. Alessandro Ortis, president of the Autorità dell'Energia (Italian energy regulator), during the winter, demand for gas during workdays is greater by more than 80 m3/day than import and production capacities. Storage is therefore indispensable as well as building up strategic reserves, before peak periods, and interruptibility of demand.

According to the same report, a gas system adapted to current demand would require an additional supply of at least 130 m3/day. Current investments and, in particular, the opening of the Rovigo methane terminal and additional transport capacities from Russia and Algeria will only provide, respectively, 25 m3/day and 35 m3/day. Thus, there is a serious and durable deficit in infrastructure because, at the same time, the future of other construction projects remains uncertain while the forecast increase in demand is 10 m3/day per year.

It is therefore likely that, for upcoming gas regulations, the Autorità will set a high remuneration for new transport and regasification infrastructures in order to contribute to improving, over the medium-term, the state of the gas market. Nevertheless, the country does not seem able to avoid new measures in favor of energy conservation and a greater diversification in means of producing electricity, half of which is currently produced by gas-fuelled thermal power plants.