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ENERGY

Italy tells residents to turn down the heat to combat energy crisis

Italy said thermostats must be turned down by one degree this winter as part of an EU-wide plan to cut gas consumption, faced with spiralling prices spurred by Russia's war in Ukraine.

Italians will be required to turn their thermostats down one degree this winter to combat Europe's ongoing energy crisis.
Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP.

The temperature in industrial buildings will be set at 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) and in others at 19C, both one degree lower than current guidelines, the ministry for the ecological transition announced on Tuesday.

The time the heating can be on is also being shortened, by one hour a day and 15 days across the year, as part of a plan to cut energy consumption by 15 percent between August 1 and March 31.

Hospitals, care homes, primary schools and nurseries will be exempt from the measures, as will the most northerly regions, while the cuts will be greatest in the warmer south.

Levels of energy use in public buildings and residential blocks will be monitored to see how the measures are being implemented, and the ministry called on individuals to play their part.

READ ALSO: Italy to bring in new aid measures as energy prices soar

“The goal is to promote conscious and intelligent behaviour,” it said, highlighting the goal of not just reducing demand for gas but also cutting utility bills.

The government is expected to ask households to turn down the heat by one degree and use it for an hour less each day, according to reports.

A new awareness campaign will also urge people to spend less time in the shower – and run it slightly colder – to disconnect electrical appliances while not in use and wait for a full load to turn on the dishwasher or washing machine.

Before the war in Ukraine triggered a change in approach, Italy imported 95 percent of the gas it consumes – about 45 percent of which came from Russia.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi has signed new deals with other gas producers to reduce Italy’s reliance on Russia, lowered to 25 percent as of June, while accelerating a shift towards renewable energies.

His government has also pledged around 52 billion euros ($52 billion) to help households and businesses cope with soaring prices.

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ENERGY

Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

As the European energy crisis continues, some cities in Italy have chosen to save on electricity by downsizing regular Christmas displays, thus making this year’s festivities a little less flashy.

Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

With less than a month to go until the Christmas holidays, many might be rejoicing at the prospect of finally seeing their cities lit up by dazzling Christmas displays.

But, as the European energy crisis shows no sign of abating and many cities across the boot keep struggling to square their accounts in the face of soaring bills, some residents may be disappointed to know that this year’s festive decorations might differ from the norm.

Milan, Italy’s economic capital, was one of the very first Italian cities to announce it would significantly reduce Christmas displays to save on energy.

READ ALSO: Lights off and home working: Milan’s new energy-saving plan for winter 

After reports emerged in early October that the city would end up spending a whopping €130 million on energy bills alone in 2022, Milan’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala, was quick to warn residents that Christmas decorations would be “restrained” and operate “for shorter periods of time”.

And, it wasn’t long before Sala made good on his promises. 

Earlier this month, the city’s authorities agreed on putting up decorations and light displays on December 7th (that is over two weeks after the usual date) and taking them down on January 6th instead of late January. 

Christmas lights in the streets of central Milan

Christmas lights in Milan will be switched on on December 7th, that is over two weeks after the usual switch-on date. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Also, while in previous years Milan’s city centre was illuminated overnight, this year’s Christmas lights will be switched on at 4pm and switched off at midnight. 

But, while Milan residents might be slightly dissatisfied with the new arrangements, they sure have little to complain about when compared to Rome residents. 

It’ll be a dark Christmas (literally and, perhaps, even figuratively) for most areas of the Eternal City and not merely because of the current energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: Energy crisis: The Italians reviving ‘nonna’s’ traditions to keep costs down

The city’s tender for this year’s Christmas lights contract received no bids before its deadline on October 27th, which means that, in many neighbourhoods, festive decorations will be largely left to the goodwill and financial means of the residents.

So while the popular Piazza di Spagna, Porta Pia and Via Alessandria will light up over the holiday season thanks to private funding, the San Giovanni and Tuscolano neighbourhoods and Via Cola di Rienzo are currently expected to remain au naturel.

Christmas light in a street in Rome

Many areas of the capital, Rome, will be without lights this year due to lack of funding. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Things will generally be better in Venice and Florence, where local authorities have recently chosen to maintain their usual arrangements, the only exception being the replacement of regular lights with energy-efficient, LED ones. 

So, while the lighting might be a little softer and displays might not be as remarkable as in previous years, both cities should be able to deal with late-December energy bills more comfortably than they would have had to do otherwise.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Italy has avoided a huge hike in gas prices – for now 

Having said that, not all Italian cities have decided to resize their Christmas offerings on the back of eye-watering electricity prices. 

Naples, which has long been known for the extravagance of its Christmas and New Year celebrations, has seemingly chosen to turn a blind eye to the energy crisis and will allocate as much as €1.5 million (that’s €150,000 to each one of the ten local municipalities) to this year’s displays.

Unsurprisingly, the comune’s decision has been drawing widespread criticism, with many local political figures pointing out that part, if not most, of the above-mentioned amount should have been spent elsewhere, perhaps in the form of a one-off ‘Christmas bonus’ for struggling households and businesses.

The available money should have been used to “turn off the crisis and light up people’s hearts”, city councillors Antonio Culiers and Francesco Flores said in a joint statement earlier this month.

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