Italy has to speed up efforts to replenish winter gas reserves and look at ways to assist businesses afford purchases in light of the high fuel price, said the minister of environmental transition on Tuesday.

Last Friday, Roberto Cingolani said that Italy’s gas reserves were 54% full. This contrasts to the European Union’s objective of 80 percent by October and 90 percent by November for the whole union.

“We need to go very fast,” Cingolani said at a conference in Rome, alluding to Italian attempts to replenish storage facilities.

Eni (ENI.MI) of Italy said Tuesday that its request for gas supply from Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has only been partly approved, marking the sixth day in a row that Eni has received less gas than requested from Moscow.

The minister said that he was looking at measures to assist energy companies in obtaining cheaper funding to finance gas storage. According to a government source, a state guarantee might be a possibility.

“Gas currently is so expensive that operators cannot put money into it. We need to reflect on this issue,” Cingolani said.

Later on Tuesday, the government’s emergency technical committee for gas is scheduled to convene to explore various actions to decrease gas usage and assist restore storage levels.

According to reports, Cingolani will meet with officials from Italy’s leading energy companies on Wednesday.

Options under consideration include decreasing gas delivery to selected industrial customers under current contracts, ramping up output at coal power plants, and seeking more gas imports from other sources.

Cingolani said that Rome supports a European-wide ceiling on gas prices to help avoid price surges. In response to diplomatic conversations on the subject, he said, “We will probably get something.”

“Companies are closing and families are in trouble not because there is a real lack of gas, but because someone behind a keyboard has decided to raise the price … a limit must be set,” added the minister.

Source: Reuters

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