A2a, the CEO changes but not the anti-ecological strategy

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Change at the top of A2A, the largest Italian multiutility. With the arrival of Renato Mazzoncini close the circle with the the municipality of Milan started a few years ago, when the former Renziano was head of the Fs group. A few weeks ago the new A2A CEO, in a hearing in the city council, had removed all concerns: continuing with the past made of profits and dividends, A2A will remain a “hen with golden eggs” for the Municipality of Milan and the “Permanent drip” for the municipality of Brescia with a budget 10 times lower than that of the Lombard capital.

Indeed the not “telematic” meeting of A2A shareholders, held on May 13, 2020 trampling on the rights of small shareholders, it approved record dividends of 60 million euros each to the controlling shareholders, the municipalities of Milan and Brescia, and another 120 million to the remainder 49% in the hands of investment funds and the market.

Mazzoncini announced the group’s strategies by identifying in Transformation, Excellence and Community (summarized in the acronym Tec) the main drivers of the industrial strategy.

But in a publicly controlled company that earns profits in regulated sectors with administered tariffs, public shareholders should not (and above all) indicate the development strategies of typically territorial activities, such as the management of the waste cycle, the networks of energy distribution (electricity and gas), the district heating, the water service for now only in Brescia, as well as the exploitation of large hydroelectric shunts (already disputed between State and Regions)?

A2A will continue to burn waste in the energy field to generate energy in the mega incinerator of Brescia (800 thousand tons per year, of which a third of Brescia production), therefore it is paid twice: the first to burn it and the second in the sale of energy. It will continue in a carriage also on the road exploitation the monopolistic position rents of the municipal services (electricity, gas, district heating and water networks) without renouncing to exploit, at the sound of extensions, the hydroelectric concessions of the imposing Valtellina hydroelectric plants.

Positive note induced by the pandemic and the market: A2A will immediately stop the use of coal at the plant Lamarmora of Brescia which since 1978, 2 km as the crow flies from Piazza Vittoria, has produced electricity and heat for the city by burning coal.

The counterpart of the dividend for the public shareholder seems to prevail over any consideration (especially for the municipality of Brescia, at the gas barrel to close the balance sheet) on how the profit is generated and the impact of these activities on its territory , on their citizens and, not least, on competition.

The municipalities of Cremona, Pavia, Lodi and the Varese area that since they sold the municipal services to A2A have only seen bills for water, electricity, gas and waste disposal and collection. The old municipalities of half Lombardy (ASM Pavia, Cogeme Rovato, Astem Lodi, Scs Crema) hoarded without public tender they had to constitute the “Multiutility of the territories” and instead they became empty boxes without autonomy.

More circular and green economy are still distant objectives, given that so far there have been very few investments in new technologies and development; and the increase in the renewable production capacity equal to 150 MW, which perhaps indicates an excessive reliance on the long-term maintenance of the concessions for large hydroelectric derivations expiring.

The utility sector is paying dearly for the absence of an effective and strong one public regulatory intervention able to push the sector to innovation and development, best practices and the determination of tariff mechanisms such as price cap, a tool capable of evaluating several aspects at the same time: protection of consumers (and their portfolios), quality and quantity of investments, technology, employment levels and environmental effects, releasing management from self-referential and partisan logic and firmly anchored to the basic principles of protecting competition in the provision of services.

Finally, as announced by the former CEO of the Fs group, there will be more mobility in the future of multiutility especially in the Milanese metropolitan city. The attempt will be to manage through the Next Milano consortium – where A2A is present – the rich regional transfers of local public transport together with ATM: an agreement between mobility, energy and utilities to avoid the tender for the award of transport services.

In this way for Mazzoncini, sent to trial by the prosecutors of Perugia and Parma, it will not be easy to continue the corporate Risiko with the FS (also present with Busitalia in the Next Milano consortium), started with the agreement with the municipality of Milan on disused railway stations and followed by the inexplicable and expensive purchase by the FS of the share of Astaldi 36% of the MM5.

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