By Emilio Parodi
MILAN (Reuters) - Italian scientists are calling on the government to extend daylight saving time to the whole year to cut energy bills, reduce pollution and improve people's health, the head of a medical body told Reuters on Friday.
Like most countries, Italy turns its clocks back by an hour every autumn, allowing for lighter mornings, and puts them forward in the spring, giving lighter evenings.
Alessandro Miani, president of the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine (Sima), said using summer time all year round would result in an annual saving for Italy of 500 million euros ($500 million) at current gas prices, and a cut in emissions of 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
"In addition, having more light increases the availability of serotonin, which helps the mood, and gives the opportunity of an extra hour outdoors with possible long-term positive effects on health as well," Miani said.
The office of Prime Minister Mario Draghi declined to comment.
In 2018, the European Parliament voted in favour of abolishing from 2021 an obligation for European Union member states to change the clocks twice a year, leaving them free to choose whether to opt for "solar" or "summer" time.
However, European governments have not yet taken a common position on the issue, saying they first want to see an impact assessment from the European Commission.
The need to save energy is growing in importance. Russia has slashed gas deliveries to Europe since invading Ukraine, which has sent gas prices rocketing to record-high levels.
Countries are scrambling to find alternative supply as they look to fill gas storage for winter.
The Italian government said on Thursday it was preparing a new multi-billion euro package to help shield firms and families from surging energy prices, after the country's main business lobby warned of a looming "economic earthquake".
EU energy ministers will meet on Sept. 9 to discuss their response to the price rises. Adopting permanent summertime is not expected to be on the agenda.
Sima, which has offices in the United States, Britain, Spain, France, Belgium and Austria, focuses on research into air and water quality, epidemiology and the costs of environmental diseases.
It based its calculations on official data on emissions and energy consumption at different times of the day, provided by Italy's state-owned energy services firm GSE and power grid company Terna, Miani said.
($1 = 1.0000 euros)
(Additional reporting by Ian Strupczewski in Brussels; Editing by Gavin Jones and Mike Harrison)