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Surprise move by the majority to save hydroelectric power from the EU

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Surprise move by the majority to save hydroelectric power from the EU

To protect hydroelectric power and prevent Italian dams from being lost with European tenders in which the big names from beyond the Alps would be favoured, there was even a risk of an accident between the majority and the government. Among the proposals put forward to the Energy bis decree, under examination in the Environment and Productive Activities commissions of the Chamberabout ten days ago half a dozen had appeared relating to hydroelectric concessions, after the stop in the official version of the Energy Sovereignty Decree. The objective was to make it possible to renew hydroelectric concessions without tenders.

The amendments

It was a series of amendments – signed by representatives of Fdi, Fi, Lega, Noi moderates – which provide that, «while safeguarding market economic conditions, the Regions and autonomous Provinces» can, «as an alternative to what was foreseen and firm without prejudice to the transfer of ownership of the works”, “reassign directly to the expired or outgoing concessionaire” the concessions “for the use of the assets acquired to public ownership, of the waters and of the related hydraulic power”. Given this opportunity, the Regions would be required to ask expired or outgoing concessionaires to present a technical-economic and financial proposal for each concession or group of concessions to be reassigned.

Fitto’s letter

Faced with this lifeline offered by the majority to a strategic sector for the country and for national security (as the Parliamentary Committee for Security), the Minister of European Affairs, Raffaele Fitto exactly a week ago he wrote a letter to the group leaders. Based on the document anticipated by Public Policy, the owner of the Pnrr dossier would have underlined that these amendments (including the identical one from Italia viva with the first signature of Mauro del Barba) «contrast with the provisions of the Pnrr and expose the country to the risk not only of not obtaining the prompt payment of the fifth rat of the Pnrr (already requested last December), but also to suffer the cut of the same for the reasons indicated below”.

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In short, Fitto reiterated in black and white the pressures made on the occasion of the decree on energy sovereignty. We give up, potentially, the control of our hydroelectric over the next 30 years to cash a Pnrr check. This seems like an aberration to us and we have written about it extensively since last October. However, it seems that yesterday, on the occasion of the deadline for the presentation of the amendments to the Milleproroghe, two emerged destined to save goat and cabbage. And to avoid Fitto the possible clash with Brussels which could preclude his path to the role of EU commissioner.

Austria and France

Il first amendment in short, it provides for an extension based on data (The truth to tell the truth, he has always taken them with a grain of salt) of the drought emergency to trigger an extension and immediately guarantee the two concessions that expired on January 1st can return to operations immediately. The other amendment it is wider. It provides for a one-year extension to give the State time to start a study on the approximately 4,500 dams, evaluate the acquisition of the most strategic assets and in the meantime ask the EU to initiate regulations valid for all countries of the Old Continent.

A simple but brilliant move, because other countries like France and Austria would never accept a step back. They are in fact between the two nations to be ended up under infringement by the EU for having rejected any hydroelectric tender and then being found right by the European Court. For protect a strategic asset like hydroelectric, all European countries have provided for national operators to renew concessions without competitive procedures, or even concessions without time limits. Furthermore, in September 2021, the European Commission has closed (given the sentences cited above) the infringement procedures on competition in hydroelectric concessions.

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The window for negotiation

«It is important for Italy to intervene on the issue without jeopardizing the Pnrr’s investment plan», he explains to Verità Roberto ZucconiFdi deputy, who immediately fought for energy sovereignty, «but at the same time putting a scheme on the ground that allows Italy to maintain control on such a peculiar, renewable and safe energy source. Both from an environmental point of view and from a fundamental continuity point of view for businesses.” In short, this opens up a window of opportunity for a negotiation that Draghi’s competition law had crippled.

The EU’s insistence and the agreement made by the previous government are in some ways still suspect today. We cannot ignore that Brussels push for the single market. This applies to gas, liquid natural gas and perhaps crude oil. It cannot – indeed it must not – apply to hydroelectric power. For a simple reason: there are infrastructural barriers and orographic limits. In short, i hydroelectric basins they are by definition regional. Here it is pushed liberalization (the one we still avoid) would become the alter ego of the EU common market. Since hydroelectric power cannot be shared, we give it into the hands of foreign companies. All the while France and Germany they do everything to create their own energy conservation bubble. This is why the battle is sacrosanct. The majority holds firm.

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