Italian ceramics factory works early to save energy

STORY: The sun may have not yet risen, but employees at the ‘Ceramiche Noi’ ceramics factory are already hard at work.

As energy prices across Europe soar, the factory, located in Italy’s Umbria region, has had to find ways to optimize energy consumption but without affecting production.

To do this, it has changed its shift patterns to coincide with when the price of electricity is at its lowest.

Employees now use the early morning sunlight as the primary light source.

Lorenzo Giornelli is Cermiche Noi’s commercial manager.

“We planned a different and extremely early shift and we start working at 6 am. We chose this time because in the first hours of the day, the temperatures are lower and we can therefore avoid turning on the fans, which are always on during the day.”

In 2021 Italy received 40% of imported gas from Russia - which has now restricted supplies to Europe.

This year, the government has slashed that to 18%.

Last week Italy’s industrial lobby warned there was a risk of widespread company failures if energy prices do not fall.

It has asked for a government plan to ration gas, as well as subsidies to shield manufactures.

The Italian government has so far spent $52 billion (52 billion euros) this year on a series of measures to help firms and families deal with surging energy costs and rising consumer prices.

However for companies like Cermiche Noi, they may not have enough time to wait for the measures to kick in.

Giornelli says bill prices have already risen by one thousand percent.

But for now, workers at the factory say all they can do is try and adapt.

"Life has changed. Before we used to have breakfast at home because we could get up a little later and take our time, but now we try to wake up at the last minute so as soon as we arrive at work, the first thing we do is have a coffee. That's what it takes."