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Why has Italy launched Operation Thermostat that sets a 25°C limit for air conditioning

Garima Bharadwaj
Garima Bharadwaj

17th October 2022


Due to the energy crisis, which has been made worse by the conflict in Ukraine, the Italian government has decided to restrict the use of air conditioners to 25 degrees in all public buildings. The Operation Thermostat regulation was already in effect in all public buildings, including schools, from May 1 through March 31 of the following year. Although it does not currently apply to hospitals, it might come in the future. 

The regulation will be based on a weighted average of the winter and summer air temperatures recorded in each building’s individual rooms. It specifies that the temperature must not fall below 27°C in the summer but allows a -2°C tolerance and that it must not rise above 19°C in the winter but allows a +2°C tolerance. The decision was made as Italy tried to replace 45% of its natural gas that was previously imported from Russia with new energy sources. In this blog, we will go into detail on the reasons for Italy’s Operation Thermostat, which imposes a 25°C air conditioning temperature limit.

Why is 25-degree-air conditioning crucial in energy conservation?

The argument over what temperature is ideal for air conditioning gets hotter every year. What temperature setting should you use? What is the ideal temperature? What degree of heat requires the least energy? These and many more questions are frequently asked. Now, we’ll discuss why it’s ideal to set your air conditioner to 25 degrees.

When utilized and maintained correctly, an air conditioner can offer several advantages, including:

  • Conserving energy: Since most modern air conditioners are energy-efficient, turning the temperature down to 25 degrees helps you save money because less electricity is used.
  • Environmental Protection: Setting the air conditioner’s temperature to 25° will reduce the amount of CO2 emissions it produces, which is good for the environment.

The planned temperature should not deviate from the outside temperature by more than 12 degrees to get the most out of our device. As was previously said, a comfortable temperature of about 24 or 25 degrees celsius usually suffices. When you go home and turn on the air, the temperature could feel a touch high; be patient and don’t turn it down any further; the body is pulling heat in from the street and needs time to adjust. This is the logic behind going 25-degree-air conditioning. However, electrical appliances also have an effect on the environment and increase energy usage. Consequently, proper energy usage is required. The best option is to use fewer electrical appliances while your air conditioner is running if you’re still concerned about how much it will cost to run it at 25 degrees. Furthermore! Always keep in mind that plugged-in appliances require electricity even when they are not being used.

The potential yearly energy savings from such energy saving activities is estimated to be 20 billion units, or Rs 10,000 crore. This would save around 10 billion units of power, or about 8.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually if roughly half (50%) of the consumers followed the suggestions. From the perspective of lowering electricity costs, raising the temperature setting from the existing 18 degrees to 24 degrees will result in a yearly cost reduction of about Rs 4,000. The annual price will drop by around Rs 6,500 if the temperature is raised to 27 degrees from 18 degrees.

The average body temperature of an adult is 36–37 degrees Celsius. Therefore, taking a temperature that is closer to 24 degrees is said to be healthy for people in temperate countries like Italy. According to the ministry’s comfort chart, temperatures up to 25 degrees, together with the required humidity and air movement values, are quite acceptable for the human body. Furthermore, as defined by ASHRAE Standard 55-2013 Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy, the thermal comfort zone is the mental state that indicates contentment with the thermal environment. In addition to specific factors like clothes and metabolism, this condition is defined by the temperature, humidity, and airflow that the human body experiences. 

According to a technical study, the temperature setting can be 24–25 degrees celsius to obtain the ideal comfort level in a stable condition. Also, there is a common doubt that won’t it take more time to cool a room. The reason is here. When the air temperature within the room reaches the specified level, the thermostat in the AC simply checks the temperature and turns off the compressor. As a result, if the temperature is lowered, the compressor will operate for a longer period of time. Therefore, if the temperature is adjusted to 25 degrees Celsius rather than 18 degrees Celsius, it will operate more efficiently and consume more electricity. This is because, given that the compressor is operating at the same power or wattage, it will take less time for the air to reach 25 degrees Celsius than 18 degrees Celsius.

Why did European nations start Operation Thermostat that limits air conditioning to 25 degrees?

Due to its inability to enhance energy output during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the whole of Europe, including Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Ireland, is currently experiencing a power crisis, which has been made worse by the recent climate change.

The energy situation in Europe is getting worse every day as a result of the war in Russia and Ukraine, rising prices, supply shortages, and a worldwide heatwave. Up until a few months ago, the European nations had plans to rely less on Moscow in order to conserve energy for the upcoming winter. The issue of the impending heat wave, however, was not anticipated. Since temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius are not typical for the European environment, an unprepared Europe is currently confronted with a number of issues regarding energy needs. 

The unexpected rise in power demand brought on by the heatwave affecting Europe has made certain European countries concerned to secure their power demands and guarantee adequate power supplies in their individual countries. However, steps are done to make sure these supplies have a less sustainable and green appearance. According to energy experts, the continent’s dire energy situation is getting worse due to a severe heatwave, a lack of hydropower, and corrosion problems at French nuclear reactors. Low water levels on the Rhine, a vital shipping route in Europe, have also raised worries about potential supply interruptions of necessities. 

Considering such issues, governments and corporations have been desperately looking for supply solutions that require more fossil fuels rather than fewer. There is no doubt that Europe is experiencing a power crisis, as it is unable to increase its energy production due to a lack of natural resources, gas-powered stations and nuclear power plants are struggling to stay afloat, and the current heatwave in Europe is only making matters worse because of increased demand. So by taking immediate steps and implementing various measures like Operation thermostat, European countries can safeguard themselves from the upcoming energy crisis.

Why do European nations like Italy want to decrease their reliance on Russian gas?

Russia and Ukraine fought a battle for several weeks. In response to the Russian invasion, the international community imposed a number of sanctions and barred Russia from taking part in any key international conferences. In reaction, Russia made the decision to reduce its exports of oil and natural gas to the West, particularly to Europe.

The fact that Europe heavily relies on Russian gas to meet its energy demands is now well-known. The International Energy Agency (IEA) claims that the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of this year brought to light Europe’s dependency on imported Russian natural gas. The European Union imported approximately 140 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas through pipelines from Russia in 2021 or more than 380 million cubic meters (mcm) per day on average. In addition, about 15 bcm of liquefied natural gas was delivered (LNG). Around 45% of the EU’s total gas imports and over 40% of its total gas usage in 2021 were both accounted for by the 155 bcm imported from Russia.

Along with Operation Thermostat mission, the EU has also developed a comprehensive plan to lessen its reliance on unstable fossil fuels and what it refers to as “unreliable suppliers” for its energy needs. The program is known as REPowerEU.

What is REPowerEU?

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, REPowerEU is a proposed blueprint of a plan to make Europe independent from fossil fuels long before 2030, starting with gas. This strategy also lays out a number of actions to address Europe’s rising energy costs and restock gas supplies for the upcoming winter. Gas supply diversification, accelerated deployment of renewable gasses, and gas replacement in power generation are all goals of REPowerEU. The EU can do this to cut its need for Russian gas in half this year.

How Italy Intends To Lessen Its Dependence On Russian Gas?

In response to Russia’s reduction in gas shipments, the nation declared last month that it is moving forward to lessen its reliance on Moscow. According to Bloomberg, the nation’s reliance on Russian gas imports has decreased from approximately 40% at the beginning of the year to 25%. The emergency plan for Italy, though it hasn’t been implemented yet, calls for the closing of businesses at 7 p.m. and the turning off of lights near monuments. Furthermore, as per the operation thermostat mission, public buildings other than hospitals in Italy have been instructed to avoid running their air conditioning units above 19°C in the winter and below 27°C in the summer since May.

According to an IEA analysis, the European Union may reduce its reliance on Russian gas by taking the following steps:

  • No More Gas Supply Contracts Or Agreements With Russia; Instead, Find And Rely On Non-Russian Sources.
  • Minimum Gas Storage Obligations Are Introduced To Improve Market Resilience
  • Speeding Up The Installation Of New Wind And Solar Projects
  • Using Existing Resources, Including Nuclear And Bioenergy
  • Take Quick Actions To Protect Vulnerable Electricity Users From High Prices
  • Accelerate Building And Industry Energy Efficiency Improvements

Effective Steps Being Taken by Other European Nations to Combat Energy Crisis

Spain: Spain started making efforts in August 2022 to reduce its energy consumption and reliance on Russian oil and gas. It stated that public buildings, theaters, shopping malls, train stations, and airports should not set heating or air conditioning above 19 degrees and below 27 degrees and gave businesses seven days to comply. To save energy, it has been requested that people keep their doors closed and turn off the lights in their storefront windows after 10 pm. In addition to inspections of buildings that last had their energy efficiency inspected before January 2021 and of boilers used for hot water and central heating, other initiatives include allowing more people to work from home, according to reports.

France: According to reports, stores in France with air conditioning have been instructed to keep their doors closed. Failure to comply could result in a fine of €750 (about Rs. 60,000). According to The Guardian, illuminated signs must be turned off “as soon as the store shuts.” Advertising that is illuminated is likewise prohibited from 1 am to 6 am, with the exception of airports and train stations. Thermostats in public places will be adjusted lower in the winter and higher in the summer.

Germany: In Germany, fountains are being turned off, and lights on public monuments are being turned off. Only cold showers are available at recreation centers and public swimming pools. In addition to prohibiting the use of fan heaters and mobile AC units, the city of Hanover has gone a step further and determined that government buildings will only be warmed up from October to March and at a maximum room temperature of 20°C.

Ireland: In Ireland, people have been instructed to use less energy at home and to drive more slowly to save on gasoline. In summer, households are urged to set the temperature to 15 to 18 degrees Celsius in corridors and bedrooms and to use washing machines and dishwashers sparingly. According to the Guardian report, the electricity department even encouraged customers not to “fill the kettle” completely when preparing a single cup of coffee.
Greece: With a high reliance on Russian gas, the country launched “operation thermostat” in June with the goal of lowering energy use by 10% this year and 30% by 2030. Other measures include installing window shields in public buildings and keeping the AC set at no lower than 27 degrees in the summer. It has been recommended that people turn off their computers after office hours.

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The 25-degree air conditioning rule in Italian buildings has a significant and favorable impact in conserving energy and combating energy crisis. In comparison to typical buildings from the 1980s, the energy consumption of new buildings has decreased by 50% since the first steps under national building rules were implemented. Along with the environmental benefits of reduced energy use, increased energy efficiency in homes, workplaces, schools, and other structures will benefit individuals throughout the EU. Buildings that use less energy will have lower energy costs and less energy demand. They may occasionally gain from the expansion of renewable energy sources. Additionally, these modifications will result in enhanced energy conservation, health and air quality.

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