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Regulatory framework

After the debated reform of economically significant local public utilities introduced by Article 23 bis of Law No. 133 of 6 August 2008, subject to amendment, during the first half of 2009 various actions of interest to the utilities managed by the Hera Group were approved or are still in discussion at various places.

The recent provision passed finally on 9 July 2009, entitled "Provision for the development and internationalization of businesses, on the subject of energy" (Decree Law No. 1195) involves the energy market in a diversification of supply sources, both by introducing a national strategy for nuclear power and by greater incentives for some renewable energy resources. The multiplication coefficient for net energy produced by transforming biodegradable waste for the purpose of calculating Green Certificates was increased from 1.1 to 1.3. Similarly, the deadline for bringing online certain cogeneration plants connected to district heating networks was extended for the purposes of the rights attached to the certificates. Other consequences are expected from the new regulations on the subject of internal user networks, as well as the movement of the obligation for putting a given share of renewable energy into the network from the supply side (producers and importers) to the demand side.

The electricity sector could be the subject of additional provisions as part of the parliamentary debate on a draft bill containing anti-crisis provisions (bill to convert Decree Law No. 78 of 1 July 2009). Among other things, the bill provides for new urgent infrastructure actions on energy networks, to be developed entirely or mostly with private capital.

As for the gas sector, we note two principal novelties contained in the legislative provisions mentioned above. First, the recently approved bill explicitly excludes the gas distribution sector from the reforms pursuant to Article 23 bis, so that previous dispositions on the subject of concessions and competitive awards are maintained (Legislative Decree No. 164 of 23 May 2000 as amended, and Article 46 bis of Law No. 222 of 29 November 2007). Second, in the draft still being discussed, there is a provision for release for gas of 5 billion cubic meters, to stimulate competition; the price to be paid to the releasing party will be based on comparing average European prices and the difference between that price and what is paid to the purchasers will accrue in favour of industrial customers who demonstrate a given usage coefficient in their gas withdrawals.

Finally, safeguarding users, Decree Law No.1195 introduces a new standard for Class Action. “Class-action" may be undertaken by individual residential customers and not by businesses, professionals or companies. It may be aimed at businesses that provide a public utility (for example providing electricity or gas to consumers) or at concessionaires of public services operating as a legal monopoly (for example, companies operating an integrated water service), and is limited to the contractual relationships with the aforesaid consumers.

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