Italy plans more than $5 bln package to curb energy bills, help COVID-hit firms

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ROME, Jan 21 (Reuters) – Italy is putting the final touches to a more than 5 billion euro ($5.67 billion) package of measures to curb surging energy bills and help companies hit by the latest wave of coronavirus infections, government officials told Reuters.

Rome plans to use around 1.5 billion euros of proceeds from carbon permit auctions to cushion a steep rise in quarterly energy bills that has left many households and businesses struggling.

The sources said the measures, which the government will discuss on Friday, will probably also include a securitisation scheme aimed at cutting system-cost levies in energy bills.

The ecological transition ministry has estimated this could generate some 2.5 billion euros in savings.

An additional 1.6 billion euros will go to help the tourist, culture, sports, textile and leisure sectors, where business has been hit by the climb in COVID-19 cases in recent months, fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

A mooted windfall tax on the large profits energy companies are believed to have made from high market prices will not be part of Friday’s package, the sources said, because it needs more consideration and a close analysis of legal issues.

Soaring energy prices, triggered by heavy demand for gas as economies look to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, have prompted governments across Europe to introduce measures to try to shield consumers.

Rome has already stumped up more than 8 billion euros since last July to curb bills for households and firms.

($1 = 0.8821 euros)

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Gavin Jones and Jan Harvey)

Photo – The Italian and EU flags wave outside Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy. EPA-EFE/FABIO FRUSTACI

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