The consequences of the Russia Ukraine war have been felt since it started, but the energy crisis that it has triggered, especially in Europe, are starting to have a greater impact now that winter is coming.
The ecological transition ministry on Thursday signed a decree introducing new limits and new times for gas heating over the coming winter to help cope with the energy crisis. Heating will be limited in both settings and times in many public and private buildings, the decree said. There will be exceptions for hospitals, nurseries, swimming pools and some industries. The Italian public is asked to turn central heating down by one degree and turn it off for an extra hour every day under new energy-saving plans, according to media reports.
The details are still scarce for now, but according to Italian media the minister did not mention measures that had reportedly been discussed in recent weeks, including the return to remote workers for public sector staff or restrictions on lighting in shop windows. A suggestion that schoolchildren could return to distance learning to save energy use in schools has also not been mentioned.
Italy already has some limits on the use of central heating in public buildings and apartment blocks, and these are expected to be tightened under the new measures. In the interests of saving energy, Italy has national rules in place about when different provinces can use central heating (riscaldamento centralizzato), based on their average seasonal temperature.
As can be expected, northern and mountainous areas are the first to be allowed to switch on the heat in October, while some parts of the south can’t turn up the dial until December.
The plan will be finalized this week and confirmed in a decree expected to be signed in the next few days, according to newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Italy’s outgoing government has been struggling to find ways to bring forward and extend energy-saving measures this week after the cost of gas and electricity in Europe soared again, and Russia cut gas supplies to Italy and halted them altogether to some European countries this week.
The Italian government is now drawing up contingency plans for three different possible scenarios this winter, including a worst-case scenario in which Russia cuts off the gas supply altogether, the Corriere reports.
European countries are racing to fill gas storage facilities over the summer, when consumption is usually lower than in winter, but the recent heatwave has increased demand on power plants for air conditioning.
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