PARIS, Sept 17 (Reuters) – France on Saturday denied reports that state-controlled utility EDF EDF.PA had warned Italy it may halt its power exports to the country and reaffirmed its commitment to “solidarity” with its neighbors as Europe grapples with an energy crisis.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported earlier on Saturday that Italy had received written notification from EDF regarding a potential two-year halt on power exports as part of France’s energy-saving plans.
A spokesperson for Italy’s ministry of ecological transition later confirmed the newspaper report.
“French authorities deny this information and reaffirm their commitment to reciprocal electricity and gas solidarity with all of our European neighbors,” the French Ministry of Energy Transition said in a statement.
An EDF spokesman also denied that the group had warned Italy of a possible suspension of its power exports to the country.
Asked about la Repubblica report, a spokesperson for the Italian Ecological Transition Ministry confirmed a communication to the ministry, adding that “the problem has been known for months due to France’s problems with its nuclear power plants”.
“Obviously it is not certain that this will happen, but to be prepared, the ministry technicians have been working for months on different scenarios,” the spokesperson told Reuters.
France has for years helped to underpin Europe’s electricity supply, providing about 15% of its total power generation.
France accounted for about 5% of Italy’s annual electricity consumption in 2019, according to Eurostat data.
But this year France has become a net power importer as its own production of nuclear energy hit a 30-year low due to a wave of repairs at the country’s nuclear plants.
European countries are in the grip of an energy crisis triggered by a plummet in Russian natural gas supplies in the wake of the Ukraine conflict.
In an effort to increase gas savings, Italy’s government said it would aim to reduce heating by 1 degree Celsius in public and private residential buildings in the second half of 2022, while cutting heating duration by one hour a day.
(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet in Paris and Giselda Vagnoni in MilanWriting by Dominique VidalonEditing by Helen Popper)