Italy’s power grid, GRTN, avoided further cuts by securing electricity imports from Electricit√© de France. However, GRTN could not rule out further blackouts later this summer.

Industry minister Antonio Marzano said the government was prepared to call a confidence vote over its energy reform bill, in a bid to help rush the bill into law and sweep aside over 700 opposition amendments. Marzano said: “The increase in demand for energy is a structural fact. The government is trying to resolve this problem through this new bill that will speed up the building of power plants.” Italy’s grid has a capacity of 55.6GWe, with 48.9GWe coming from Italian generators, and the rest from imports. There are plans to build 36 new power plants currently before the authorities.

Marzano and the mayors of Rome and Florence said that they had been kept in the dark about the looming blackout crisis until the last minute, making it impossible to form contingency plans. The employers’ group Confindustria said that firms up and down Italy had seen their day’s business ruined by the blackouts and said that it would consider suing the grid for damages.

The power demand rise that resulted in the blackout arose out of an increase in usage of air conditioners. Konstantin Staschus, a member of the statistics working group at the European grid operators body Union for the Coordination of Electricity Transmission, said: “What is new is the growing use of air conditioning, especially in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece. Summer demand is becoming almost as critical as in the winter. In the USA, this is already a problem, and now we are seeing this all along the south of Europe.” In Spain, where demand hit a new record earlier this year, supplies will remain tight for the next couple of years until new power stations are built. Ireland faces a power shortfall, and during recent winters, had to switch on temporary generators. Elsewhere in Europe, years of over-investment have left the market well supplied, despite plant closures as competition took root and reduced prices. Most plant closures have been in Germany and the UK, where generation is mainly in private hands. State-run Electricit√© de France has mainly nuclear plants, none of which have closed recently, leaving it with huge overcapacity.