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How Italy plans to cut air conditioner use to save energy

In a move to cut energy consumption and help end reliance on Russian gas, the Italian government has approved plans to restrict the use of air conditioning from May.

How Italy plans to cut air conditioner use to save energy
Italy plans to cut energy consumption with air conditioner limits. Photo by Vladislav Nikonov on Unsplash

The Italian government on Thursday approved new limits on the use of air conditioning in public offices and schools from May 1st, as the country looks at new was to save energy and help waan itself off a heavy reliance on Russian gas imports.

READ ALSO: Italy will ‘soon’ stop buying gas from Russia, says minister

The move came via an amendment made on Thursday to the national energy decree, imposing temperature limits for radiators and air conditioners in public offices and schools.

While it is not yet law, the amendment has been approved by the government’s environment and business committee.

The Italian government said it aims to save 4 billion cubic metres of gas in 2022 by cutting the use of air conditioners in public buildings as part of its ‘operation thermostat’.

Ministers said on Thursday that Italy will be able to end its reliance on Russian gas within 18 months, after previously giving a timeframe of at least two years.

The government is pushing to diversify gas supplies after Italy’s prime minister talked earlier this month of the “question between peace and having working radiators, or air conditioning in summer”.

The new rules on air conditioning are due to come into force on May 1st and will remain in place until March 31st 2023, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

In public buildings, usage will be measured in the individual rooms of each building – the temperature must not exceed 19 degrees Celsius in winter and cannot be any lower than 27 degrees in summer, with a margin of tolerance of two degrees – meaning the lowest allowed temperature is actually 25C.

The measure does not currently apply to clinics, hospitals and nursing homes.

Fines for non-compliance with the rules are said to range from €500 to €3,000, although it’s not yet clear how checks or enforcement would be carried out.

So far, no details are known about how this will affect individuals in private buildings, though the government is reportedly planning measures to encourage the public to cut their use of air conditioning.

A further decree is reportedly being considered which would reduce municipal electricity consumption. That could mean fewer street lamps and delaying switching on the lights in apartment blocks.

Italy has long had rules in place limiting the usage of heating in homes and public buildings during winter.

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MONEY

EXPLAINED: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

Amid soaring inflation and price rises, the Italian government has announced new measures to help families and businesses keep costs down. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

Italy approved a much-anticipated aid decree on Thursday, August 4th, bringing a new round of state funding intended to tackle the country’s most critical issues: from the rising cost of living and sky-high inflation to the energy and supply crisis. 

READ ALSO: Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

The ‘aiuti bis’ aid package, worth around 17 billion euros ($17.4 billion), likely marks the last major act by outgoing prime minister Mario Draghi before an early general election next month.

The funding is seen as badly needed after inflation hit 8 percent in Italy in June – the most severe spike the country has experienced since 1976.

After weeks of speculation about exactly which measures may or may not be included in the decree, we now know it contains everything from an extension to the fuel duty cut to more help with energy bills for those on lower incomes.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest measures intended to keep the cost of living under control.

Extension to fuel duty cut 

The current discount on fuel duties is to be extended again to September 20th, though the value of the discount will drop from 30 to 25 cents. 

The discount was recently extended to August 21st but the government decided to further prolong the incentive in a bid to ease the blow that record fuel prices have dealt to consumers and businesses.

The cut was initially introduced as far back as March when the average prices at the pump for petrol and diesel both exceeded the two-euro mark.

Help with energy bills

Measures introduced in the first half of the year to help lower-income households and vulnerable people pay rising energy bills will be extended under the new decree.

It extends an existing government discount on gas and electricity bills for a further three months, until the end of 2022, as well as reducing system charges.

READ ALSO:

Italy’s tax on the ‘excess profits’ of energy companies has meanwhile been extended to June 2023 after the government reportedly received fewer payments than expected.

Tax cut for employees

Workers earning a gross income of under €35,000 are eligible for a two percent tax saving, amounting to a small monthly ‘pay rise’ until the end of this year.

“Already in the budget law we reduced social contributions by 0.8 percent; for the second half of the year this reduction goes up to 2 percent, as we’re now adding 1.2 percent”, said Economy Minister Daniele Franco at a press conference on Thursday.

As the tax relief lasts until the end of the calendar year for a six-month period, the July deduction will be retroactive.

New aid measures announced on Thursday are hoped to boost Italy’s consumer spending power as the cost of everyday goods rises. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Those earning €35,000 can expect to save around a further €30 per month (1.2 percent of a monthly salary of €2,692 – most Italian salaries are paid out over 13 rather than 12 months to give employees a tredicesima Christmas bonus).

To find out how this may apply to you, it’s advisable to speak to an accountant or your local Italian tax agency (Agenzie delle entrate) office.

More funding for mental health treatment

The new decree will also enhance the existing ‘psychologist bonus’ (bonus psicologo) by allocating an additional 15 million euros to the measure. This will bring the total amount of funds available for the bonus to 25 million euros. 

The bonus was officially introduced at the end of July to help make mental health services more affordable, amid a pandemic-induced crisis in Italy.

All individuals with an Isee (a calculation of relative household income and wealth) lower than 50,000 euros will be eligible to receive a 600-euro voucher, which they’ll be able to use when seeing professionals listed on Italy’s official register of psychologists.

See more information about claiming the bonus in a separate article here.

Discount on public transport tickets

The government will allocate a total of 101 million euros to funding its ‘transport bonus’ (bonus trasporti); 22 million more than the original amount.

The bonus takes the form of a one-time 60-euro discount to be used on the purchase of monthly or yearly tickets for local transport services.

It will be available from September 2022 to all pensioners, students, and employees with an Isee of up to 35,000 euros.

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