This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 691624
The Italian antitrust authority presented the results of the district heating inquiry aimed at verifying the presence of critical issues in market competition in the district heating sector. The consultation started because of some citizens’ / consumers associations’ complaints.
During the workshop 'District Heating: new rules for development' organized by AIRU and EnergyLab Foundation on 20 May 2014, AGCM, the Italian antitrust authority presented the outcome of the inquiry. According to the Authority, DH is basically self-regulated and, despite being a local natural monopoly, the competitiveness is by no means absent from the sector.
DH proves its competition among different heating systems while trying to reach new customers: DH utilities can rely on connection price and heat price levers. In other words, DH systems must be competitive with the most common alternative heating systems (and taking into account operation and maintenance costs) in order to convince customers. Authority reached these results also after having deeply analyzed heat prices and utilities’ profit margins of all Italian DH companies: both proved to be regular and margins turned out to be in average about 20%. Consequently, AGCM doesn’t find any need for regulation in this sector, but rather a sectorial framework law to unify local existing regulations.
Another aspect that confirms the need for a framework law is the will of securing competition in cases where the local administration participates with significant stock shares in DH utility and, at the same time, in a natural gas distribution utility: interests of one or another company might indeed undermine competition between the two alternatives. Professor Francesco Gullì, Economist at Bocconi University in Milan, affirms that a regulation would slow and inhibit development of DH, which is not yet a mature market in Italy. Strong regulation would rather be required in areas where connection to the DH network is compulsory or in countries were market is already mature.
During this inquiry, another issue on DH has raised: a lack of transparency in DH, in particular in the composition of the price (while the electric bill, for example, would be more clear from this point of view). The Authority would appreciate greater transparency in contract conditions, as this could foster a greater awareness in consumers’ choices and, ultimately, the development of competition between heating systems.
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