Operating thermostat! Italy refuses air conditioning to reduce its dependence on Russian gas – POLITICO

The Italian government will force air conditioning in public buildings to be turned down this summer as it tries to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

Under the new rules, dubbed Operation Thermostat by Italian media, air conditioning in public buildings, including schools and ministries, cannot be set below 27 degrees Celsius. In winter, heating systems should not heat buildings above 19 degrees, although a 2 degree leeway is allowed. Previously, public buildings could be cooled to 26 degrees.

Those who fail to comply face fines ranging from €500 to €3,000.

The measures were passed as an amendment in parliament last week, following increases in energy prices and as the government tries to diversify Italy’s gas imports – the country imports around 40 % of its gas from Russia. Moscow this week cut off gas supplies to two EU members, Poland and Bulgaria, sparking fears over the future of energy supplies.

The text of the amendment, presented by deputies Angela Masi and Davide Crippa of the Eco-Friendly 5-Star Movement, stated that the objective was to “reduce the thermal consumption of buildings and obtain annual energy savings immediate”.

By refusing air conditioning, the government aims to save 4 billion cubic meters of gas this year. The measures come into force on May 1 and will last until April 2023.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi has accused European purchases of Russian energy at inflated prices of funding the invasion of Ukraine, and warned that cracking down on Russia could mean tough life choices.

“Do we want to have peace or do we want to have air conditioning?” he said at a press conference earlier this month.

Italy’s gas needs are covered until October even if Moscow closes the taps, according to Draghi.

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