Italy imposes 25C limit on air conditioning as energy debate rages | Italy

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Schools and other public buildings in Italy will be banned from setting their air conditioning to a setting below 25C from next month, under a scheme to help the country dodge a war-exacerbated energy crisis in Ukraine.

The energy rationing initiative, dubbed ‘Operation Thermostat’, comes as two Italian ministers travel to central Africa on Wednesday in search of alternative gas suppliers to Russia, from where Italy imports about 45% of its natural gas.

A debate over the energy wasted by air conditioning erupted after Prime Minister Mario Draghi ironically used air conditioning as an example of something Italians might have to sacrifice in exchange for peace in Ukraine.

“Do we want to have peace or do we want to have air conditioning?” he said earlier this month, after promising that Italy would comply if the EU decided to impose an embargo on Russian gas.

The rules will start on May 1 and will be in place until March 31 next year, with heating in public buildings in winter not to exceed 19C. It is not yet clear how the measure will be enforced, but Labor Ministry inspectors could undertake checks, with those who flout the limits facing a fine of between €500 and €3,000, Il Messaggero reported. The measure does not apply to hospitals but could possibly be extended to private homes.

Renato Brunetta, the public administration minister, said the initiative, introduced by the Five Star Movement, was a “positive” sign and would save 2-4 billion cubic meters of gas per year. About 57% of a public office building’s energy costs come from temperature control.

Angela Masi, a politician from the Five Star Movement, said, “It is true that public administration is setting a good example by reducing waste and raising awareness among citizens to rationalize consumption. It’s a simple way to contribute and reduce dependence on gas.

After traveling to Algeria last week to strike a gas deal, Draghi was forced to cancel trips to Angola and the Republic of Congo after testing positive for Covid-19. He sends instead his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, and Roberto Cingolani, the Minister of Ecological Transition.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera on Sunday, Draghi said: “We no longer want to depend on Russian gas, because economic dependence must not become political subjection. Diversification is possible and can be implemented in a relatively short period of time – faster than we imagined just a month ago.

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