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Operation Thermostat! Italy turns down air conditioning in bid to reduce dependence on Russian gas

The Italian government will force the air conditioning in public buildings to be turned down this summer, as it attempts 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 government ministries, cannot be set lower than 27 degrees Celsius. In winter, heating systems must not warm buildings above 19 degrees, although two degrees of leeway will be allowed. Previously, public buildings could be cooled to 26 degrees.

Those who do not comply can be hit with fines 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 attempts to diversify Italy’s gas imports — the country imports around 40 percent of its gas from Russia. Moscow this week cut off gas supplies to two EU members, Poland and Bulgaria, raising fears about the future of energy supplies.

The text of the amendment, put forward by MPs Angela Masi and Davide Crippa of the environmentally-friendly 5Star Movement, said the aim was to “reduce the thermal consumption of buildings and to obtain immediate annual energy savings.”

By turning down the a/c, 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 blamed European purchases of Russian energy at inflated prices for financing the invasion of Ukraine, and warned that getting tough on Russia might mean difficult lifestyle choices.

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

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

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