Deadline needed for gas appliance ban if Australia to reach net zero: Grattan06/18/2023
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Australia needs a deadline to ban the sale of new household gas appliances and hundreds of homes will need to switch from gas to electric every day for the country to reach its 2050 net zero deadline, a new report has found.
Modelling in the Grattan Institute’s Getting Off Gas report, released on Sunday, shows tens of thousands of new homes are still being hooked up to the fossil fuel every year, risking the nation’s legally binding climate goals.
The 5 million Australian houses with gas connections account for about 17 per cent of the fossil fuel that is consumed each year.Credit: Bloomberg
It urged federal and state governments to provide subsidies and low-interest loans to home owners who buy electric appliances such as hot water systems, cooktops and household heaters, but warned this would work only if coupled with a deadline to cease selling gas appliances.
“There are new homes being added to the gas network every day,” the report said. “Governments need to step in and generate greater momentum towards an all-electric residential sector.”
The federal government has committed to cut Australia’s emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050, and households are a significant driver. The 5 million houses with a gas connection account for about 17 per cent of the fossil fuel that is consumed each year – but to date only the ACT has banned new gas connections, to apply from as soon as November.
Gas-fired appliances have about a 15-year average lifespan, and Grattan warns delaying moves to make households switch off gas appliances until closer to 2050 would force people to ditch expensive heaters and stoves prematurely.
Since 2010, the number of residential gas customers in NSW and the ACT has grown by 37 per cent and in Victoria by 22 per cent, Grattan said. Victoria is the largest consumer of household gas and the state would have to switch 200 households a day from gas to electric to have no homes connected to the fossil fuel by 2050.
Victoria has committed to cut emissions by 75 to 80 per cent by 2035 and hit net zero by 2045, and is considering advice from its expert panel to ban new gas connections by 2035.
Grattan Institute climate change and energy program director Tony Wood said the federal government’s $1 billion household energy upgrades fund, which will offer consumers low-interest loans, “will make a big difference” to speeding the uptake of electric appliances.
But he said more will be needed and state and federal governments should co-ordinate policies to ensure households that can least afford to buy electric appliances – which are currently more expensive than gas models – don’t bear the cost of emissions reduction targets.
“It is a financially attractive thing to do, but most people don’t have a lazy $4000 to $5000 sitting around,” Wood said.
“There will be costs to the great energy transition, and governments will need to decide who pays, how much, and when.”
Federal Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the government’s $1.7 billion investment in energy-saving upgrades, announced in the May budget, would help people make their own decisions about energy efficiency.
“The Albanese government’s approach to energy upgrades and energy efficiency is to give Australians choices rather than mandates,” he said.
Switching from gas appliances to electric can deliver significant energy bill savings, and more than 30 per cent of Australian households are already using an electric heater, cooktop or water heater.
Grattan found that by switching from gas to electric appliances, an average household in Melbourne could save between $12,000 and $14,000 over 10 years based on their energy consumption, while an average household in Sydney could save between $2000 and $7000.
Grattan also cites peer-reviewed studies, including by the Australian Journal of General Practice, that show electric appliances also deliver health benefits.
“Gas stoves release nitrogen dioxide and tiny particles called PM2.5. These particles irritate the lungs, particularly in children, whose lungs are still developing. These pollutants are reported to leak even when the stove is off,” the report said.
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