With the re-opening of factories and offices after the long summer holidays Italians face the prospect of electricity rationing in September. Italy has been feeling the shortage of electricity since the end of June when some cities experienced blackouts in a series of programmed shutdowns.

A detailed scheme has now been drawn up and approved by the government to deal with possible emergencies in September. Shortages are expected if temperatures stay above the seasonal average and if neighbouring countries, in particular France and Slovenia, are not able to supply extra power when called on.

The emergency plan includes loosening up on some environmental controls, such as the amount of hot water that can be released from power stations into rivers, lakes and the seas. It also allows for the delay in the decommissioning of some old power stations that are no longer able to meet air pollution levels. The governments plan has already led to protests from environmental groups.

In Rome the electricity utility ACEA has a day-by-day timetable for emergency days when different areas of the city will be cut off for a maximum of one and a half hours during the day. ACEA has advised people not to use lifts on emergency days, to turn on washing machines and dish washers in the evening, not to use clothes dryers and to lower the water heater thermostat. For further information see www.aceaspa.it