Italian cities turn off lights to protest rising energy prices

This picture taken before 19.00 GMT of the Rome's skyline shows the illuminated Capitol Hill, right, with the brick-orange Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli al Campidoglio (Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven) at center, and the Unknown Soldier monument at left, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)
By John Cody
3 Min Read

Numerous Italian cities turned off the lights for public monuments and government buildings on Thursday evening in a symbolic protest of rising energy prices.

The increasing costs are a burden and “bring families and institutions into serious difficulties,” said Rome’s Mayor Roberto Gualtieri ahead of the protest.

The National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI), which represents the municipalities’ interests in Italy and Brussels, was behind the protest.

“The issue concerns everyone, businesses to families and local bodies,” ANCI president Antonio Decaro told the Italian public broadcaster RAI. 

Luca Vecchi, the mayor of Reggio Emilia and president of ANCI in Emilia-Romagna, posted on Twitter, “Tonight we turn off the lights of the Calatrava bridge in protest against the expensive bills.”

Meanwhile, Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri tried to put the enormous costs into context, saying, “Soaring [energy] bills will cost between €40 and 50 million a year. This is the equivalent of three years of school public transport, three months of school meals, and maintenance for 180 kilometres of roads.”

Protests will be ongoing

In the future, town halls and landmarks in dozens of cities, from Milan to Rome to Palermo, are to be plunged into darkness every Thursday between 8 and 8:30 p.m. According to the Italian media, the initiative came from Edoardo Accorsi, the mayor of the city of Cento in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna.

In his city of around 35,000 inhabitants, the rising energy prices caused an additional expenditure of €450,000. That increased the expenses for electricity and gas to almost €2 million euros. The Italian city and municipal council expect an annual electricity expenditure of between €1.6 and €1.8 billion.

Italy had experienced a stronger economic growth than Germany in recent months. However, because the country is dependent on natural gas and oil imports, and the prices for these have risen rapidly, Italy’s growth is now under threat.

Italy is not the only country facing inflation from rising energy prices, with the German Federal Statistical Office announcing on Friday that consumer prices in January increased by 4.9 percent compared to a year before. One of the main factors in the increase in inflation was energy prices, which increased 20.5 percent within a year.

“On a year-on-year basis, fuel prices have increased by 24.8 percent and household energy prices by 18.3 percent,” the statisticians stated.

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