Europe energy crisis: Italians told to turn thermostats down

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A woman turns the heating downImage source, Getty Images

Central heating will be restricted in Italy this winter, as it becomes the latest country to take action on European gas supply shortages sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Under a new government decree, buildings will face an extra fifteen days without central heating.

Italians will also be told to turn their heating down by one degree, and off for an extra hour a day.

Some buildings will be exempt, including nurseries and hospitals.

The move comes as governments across Europe look to reduce demand and shore up energy supplies ahead of winter.

Many were dependent on gas from Russia, which has been restricted following the war in Ukraine.

Before February's invasion, Italy was the second-largest importer of Russian gas in the EU, with imports making up 40% of its total supply.

This is now down to just 10%, as Rome has turned to other sources of energy and liquified natural gas.

The country normally restricts the use of central heating in warmer months, with its use determined by regional governments.

With bills already soaring, reactions from Italians have been mixed.

"For old people who will stay at home a lot of time, probably it will be a problem for them," one told the BBC.

"It's probably needed, but it's hard. Now that this crisis is affecting us personally, it could lead more people to change their view on still backing sanctions on Russia," said another.

Many European governments have announced similar energy-saving plans.

In France, homes and offices will be heated to a maximum of 19C, there will be no hot water in public buildings, and the temperature in swimming pools and gyms will also be reduced.

A ban on doors being left open in heated or air-conditioned shops, which was previously in effect in some areas, has been extended nationwide.

Spain has also previously mandated that heating not rise above 19C, as well as ordering that doors should be closed so as not to waste heat and that lights in shop windows must be turned off after 22:00.

And Germany has stopped lighting up public monuments and buildings for aesthetic reasons, and warned heating may be turned off in the entrances, corridors and foyers of public buildings.

At an EU summit in Prague on Friday, leaders are discussing capping wholesale gas prices to protect consumers.

Many individual states have already introduced national caps on the price consumers pay for units of energy.

Other measures have already been agreed across the bloc, including windfall taxes on surplus profits made by fossil fuel companies, and a levy on excess profits made by non-gas electricity producers.