Two weeks after Italians were told they’d have a choice between “air conditioning or peace”, the government appears to have made the choice for them, introducing rationing of AC and heat in a bid to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported Russian energy.
From May 21st, public buildings such as government offices and schools in Italy will be limited on the degree to which they can use heating and cooling to regulate the temperature in a bid to reduce energy use. In the summer, air conditioning units will not be set to cooler than 25 degrees centigrade (77°F) and in the winter heating will not be set to warmer than 19°C (66°F), Il Giornale reports.
While both temperatures are easily in the comfortable range, the move away from a year-long constant indoor temperature that the advent of automatic central heating and cooling has made common in rich nations is a bid to reduce Italy’s energy consumption, and with it run down the country’s use of imported Russian gas and oil.
Announcing “Operation Thermostat” this week, Italian prime minister Mario Draghi discussed the possibility of a European Union-wide embargo on Russian gas — an energy source the EU is deeply reliant on, with some members like Germany not willing to give it up yet — saying Italy would support the measure.
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Draghi had foreshadowed the order a fortnight ago, when he asked the nation, rhetorically: “Do we want to have peace [in Ukraine] or do we want to have the air conditioning on?” The Prime Minister was ridiculed for his comments at the time.
The new rule impacts government-owned and run buildings, but exceptions exist for hospitals and healthcare settings. While the announcement might possibly encourage the public to do the same voluntarily, there is even suggestion in Corriere della Sera that AC and heat rationing may be extended to private homes on a mandatory basis in future.
As things stand, the measure for government buildings is being enforced by fines, starting at €500 ($530/£420) and rising to €3,000 ($3,250/£2,500).
The considerable part of Europe’s energy market made up by Russian gas and oil has become a major point of contention since Moscow’s re-commencement of the invasion of Ukraine from February. The political leverage Europe being a major energy importer gives Russia is no surprise; erstwhile U.S. President Donald Trump warned of these exact consequences years ago — but was mocked for it.
Europe’s dependence is such that even as Russia invades a neighbour of the European Union, EU governments are still funding Moscow to the tune of a billion dollars a day, as no alternative except economic collapse, or at the very least severe recession, awaits Europe if it turns the gas taps off.
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