Italy has turned to oil-fired power stations after lower Russian natural-gas deliveries forced the country to declare an emergency as freezing conditions gripped Europe and pushed up heating demand.

Italy’s industry ministry has sanctioned the use of six Enel (BITENEL) SpA-operated oil-fired power plants to reduce gas use, Reuters reports.

“The situation is rather critical as Russia and France reduced supplies,” Italian Development Minister Corrado Passera told reporters in Milan.

Italy, Europe’s third-biggest gas user, imports about 20 per cent of its supplies from Russia, the world’s biggest gas exporter and producer.

In 2010 Italy used 76.1 billion cubic meters of the fuel, behind only the U.K. and Germany and more than France, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy.

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