Municipal governments from Rome to Turin turned off the lights at major monuments and landmarks in a symbolic protest on Thursday evening.

The mayors of major Italian cities turned off the lights at landmark monuments and public buildings to protest rising energy bills that are putting a dent in municipal budgets.

The National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI), which represents the municipalities’ interests at the national and EU level, announced the symbolic protest scheduled for Thursday evening.

“The issue concerns everyone, businesses to families and local bodies,” ANCI president Antonio Decaro, who is also the mayor of the southern city of Bari, told the Italian public broadcaster RAI. 

ANCI estimates that energy costs for Italian municipalities amount to €1.6 to 1.8 billion ($1.8 to 2 billion), and that energy bills will rise by at least €550 million ($630 million). Decaro said the 30 percent rise would leave a gap on the municipalities’ yearly budget.

“We could be forced to cut on essential services, starting from street lighting, which plays an important role in ensuring public safety,” Decaro said.

Major cities including Rome, Turin, Naples, Milan and Palermo announced they would take part.

Rome’s mayor announced its renowned city hall, the Capitoline, would go dark for 30 minutes starting from 8pm. In Florence, the landmark medieval Ponte Vecchio bridge and buildings in the old city would also turn off their lights.

“Soaring [energy] bills will cost between €40 and 50 million a year,” said Rome mayor Roberto Gualtieri. “This is the equivalent of three years of school public transport, three months of school meals, and maintenance for 180 kilometres of roads.”

Energy prices have been soaring to their highest levels in decades. Gas prices have more than tripled in Europe in 2021, driving up inflation. It is feared that mounting tensions with Russia, a key gas supplier to the continent, could further affect supplies. Brussels has warned inflation will remain high across the Eurozone at least through the summer. 

Italy is heavily dependent on imports to meet its oil and natural gas needs. According to a study by S&P Global Ratings cited by Italian daily La Stampa, the rise in electricity costs will cost an additional €35 billion ($40 billion) in 2022.

The Italian government has allocated €5.5 billion euros to ease the cost of electricity and gas bills on businesses and households. Under pressure from parties and civil society, Prime Minister Mario Draghi this week pledged a further “far-reaching intervention” to be announced in the coming days.

Source: TRT World