The Italian energy regulator, the Authority for Electric Energy and Gas, has suggested that a planned levy on energy network operators Snam Rete Gas and Terna could breach EU rules.

The AFX news agency reports that the regulator has raised concerns that the tax could run counter to EU laws on free trade. Italy’s links with Slovenia for gas and Greece and France for electricity could be hampered by the imposition of the levy. It is thought that the planned tax, agreed in the Italian budget for 2006, could cost Snam and Terna up to E800 million between them.

The E800 million figure is in excess of the two firms’ combined net profits for last year and has drawn sharp criticism from investors, and shares in both have suffered. Despite the regulator’s intervention however, the Italian government appears unwilling to relent on the idea.

AFX cited industry minister Claudio Scajola as saying, There is a need to get the country’s accounts in order. Everyone has to contribute. There is a need to look again for resources where we believe it is correct to be able to take them.