ACT to trial first “gas free” suburb in next stage of 100% renewable goal

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A new housing development in the ACT will trial a gas-free residential precinct initially incorporating 350 homes.

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The Australian Capital Territory is to trial its first “gas-free” suburb as part of the next step in its push for 100 per cent renewable energy in the nation’s capital.

The ACT is expected by 2020 to have commissioned enough wind and solar farms to reach the equivalent of 100 per cent renewable energy for its electricity supply, now it wants to turn its attention to another major fossil fuel – gas.

The new master-planned Ginninderry development will trial a gas-free residential precinct in stage 1 of the suburb. It will affect the first 350 homes.

Rather than being connected to the gas-grid, each home will include mandatory solar panels and smart meters, and be equipped with efficient electric heating and cooling, and induction cooktops.

The government expects the switch to electric appliances will save households $14,000 over the life of the equipment.

“As the ACT moves to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020, gas will become one of the major remaining contributors to greenhouse gas pollution, so we will need to find options to reduce gas use,” says Shane Rattenbury, the Greens MLA who is minister for climate and sustainability.

Gininderry is a joint venture between the ACT government and local landowners, mostly farmers, who want to make it an “exemplar” of sustainable development.

Local planning rules make it compulsory for gas to be connected to new housing divisions, along with other “essential services”, but the ACT government gave a waiver after an approach from developers, the Riverview Group.

Rattenbury says the push-back from the gas industry, when it got wind of the move, was fierce. But he expects it will not be the last request of this type.

“Once we show it is possible, we are quite confident it will be the way of the future,” Rattenbury told RenewEconomy.

Data released earlier this week by the ACT government shows the amount of gas being consumed by ACT households is already falling, at a much faster rate than the states, mostly due to the choice of efficient electric appliances and the widespread installation of rooftop solar.

The report shows average annual household gas consumption has dropped 22 per cent since 2010 and 13 per cent since 2015 – from 50 gigajoules in 2010, to 45 gigajoules in 2015, and 39 gigajoules in 2017.

The number of households connected to gas fell from 70 per cent in 2010 to 67.9 per cent in 2014, and the number of households using gas for space heating fell from 60 per cent in 2011 to 45 per cent in 2014.

“This shows that ACT residents are being smarter with their gas consumption, and are making the switch to move away from gas altogether,” Rattenbury said.

“People are using more energy efficient gas appliances, taking energy efficiency actions like draught proofing their houses or switching to electrical appliances.”

“The report shows a clear downward trend in household gas consumption, with the ACT way out in front of other jurisdictions in the race to reduce gas use,” Rattenbury said.

“This is very good news as gas contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and we are moving towards a zero net emissions territory by 2050 at the latest.”

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28 Comments
  1. cres 9 months ago

    I’m sure the gas providers are very nervous. Average gas demand per household is falling, as gas space heating (and water heating) is replaced with more efficient electrical heating and cooling, often coupled with solar. Previously, gas infrastructure was simply rolled out to new urban developments, then conveniently rolled into the network owner’s asset base for a tidy regulated return on capital. But regulators are wising up. New developments do not use gas space heating or often even hot water… with cooking appliances sometimes the only gas requirement. So new gas infrastructure does not have enough variable gas throughput to pay for itself; and so increases the required tariffs on existing assets to maintain regulated returns. That game is now up.

    Commentators have been focused on the impact of new renewables (especially behind the meter solar and storage) on the incumbent generators and electricity network owners. I reckon being a gas distribution network owner would be a very difficult experience over the next decade.

    • Joe 9 months ago

      I am thinking that the Gas Industry’s equivalent of the MCA will be very busy now tapping The COAlition for favours to keep the residential gas business from being made redundant.

      • mick 9 months ago

        agl had a shit fit when the premier first started talking about govt owned power assets last year,if the libs /alt libs get over the line they`d sell off whatever is left and agl would be first cab off the rank to buy up for a song

  2. Tim Forcey 9 months ago

    MY EFFICIENT ELECTRIC HOME

    People interested in operating their homes without using gas can join the discussion at My Efficient Electric Home, now with 2,600 members.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/996387660405677/

  3. Peter Campbell 9 months ago

    I am in the ACT and looking to get off gas, currently used in my house for a cooktop and space heating. The recurrent gas service charge is such that I could save money even if I just used plain old resistance heaters. Obviously I would get an induction cooktop and heat pump space heaters.
    A subtle part of the push back is that the local electricity supplier, ACTEWAGL, who also supplies gas, is putting new connections on a demand tariff that is not just a cumulative Time of Use charge. Instead you are charged for your maximum demand in a 30 minute period during peak time in month. You could have modest usage for 29 days then use an induction cooktop while baking a cake in an electric oven just one evening and have a high demand charge, no different from someone who bakes every evening.
    ACTEWAGL are advising people to get gas for cooking to avoid high bills.
    Aside from saving money, using electricity rather than gas is preferable on environmental grounds since we are well on the way to 100% renewable electricity in the ACT.

    • Tim Forcey 9 months ago

      Wow, a conflict of interest there. The distributor of gas and electricity (ACTEWAGL) can play some games there to ensure people stay stuck on both grids. Interesting!

      • duanne 9 months ago

        Also in the ACT – we have no gas connection, but an LPG cylinder for the cooktop. Definitely a cost saving over a (gas) mains connection & could solve the peak electricity charge cost.

        • Rod 9 months ago

          Ditto. Many gas cooktops now come with dual jets, One for mains and one for LPG. One 8.5kg bottle lasts us 3-4 Months for the cooktop. We seldom use an oven but have a benchtop turbo oven thingy for when we do.

          • juxx0r 9 months ago

            How do you make chicken stirfry without a gas cooktop? Could only ever make chicken soup on the electric element, particularly with all the injected fluids in all chicken meat these days.

          • Rod 9 months ago

            I have a gas cooktop LPG. No oven. Soups happen in the solar oven, weather permitting or the pressure cooker. Pressure cookers are another way of cooking efficiently.

    • Miles Harding 9 months ago

      This makes the case for a buffering battery.

      • howardpatr 9 months ago

        Yes time for the ACT to go the next step and connect all 350 houses to a distributed ESS.

      • Greg Hudson 9 months ago

        And solar to fill the battery.

  4. Tim Forcey 9 months ago

    HEAT PUMPS

    Using heat pumps (reverse-cycle air cons) for space heating and water heating isn’t so much about using “electricity” for heating, it is more about using an electrically-driven refrigerant cycle to capture free renewable heat from the air outside your home.

    “Harvesting renewable heat” is the key phrase I think, not “heating with efficient electric devices”.

    Tough message to get across however. I ought to know, I have been spending much time since at least 2015 trying to get it across…

    • Charles Hunter 9 months ago

      Couldn’t agree more strongly. We moved (from the ACT) to country NSW into a house that had clapped-out gas kitchen appliances (needed to use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door closed) and a gas HWS that was nearing the end of its useful life. We switched to electric kitchen appliances as part of a kitchen reface, then replaced the gas HWS with a heat pump. I also got the sparky to put a timeswitch into the circuit for the heat pump, mainly so the fans didn’t make noise at night, but also to maximise the use of PV for heating hot water. Since then, our hot water has been “free” on all except the cloudiest of days, and the heat-pump is so efficient that the kWh going to the HWS have barely caused a blip in our feed-in. Evening cooking has been largely “free” too, courtesy of solar batteries. Gas. So last century. Anyone doing a new build would have to have rocks in their head to even consider connecting gas.

      • Tim Forcey 9 months ago

        Yep hundreds of people who are doing exactly that are sharing their experiences at “My Efficient Electric Home” discussion group on Facebook.

    • Fred Struth 9 months ago

      Easy message to get across.
      Maximum gas efficiency 95%.
      Maximum electric efficiency 450%+
      See what I did there, communication problem solved.

  5. Tim Forcey 9 months ago

    In Australia, more energy is likely being recovered by heat pumps (for water heating and space heating) than by roof-top solar PV, just sayin’.

    Well, we said it before here: https://reneweconomy.com.au/the-cheapest-way-to-heat-your-home-with-renewable-energy-just-flick-a-switch-92274/

  6. Robert Westinghouse 9 months ago

    Well done ACT. Trumbil and his mates could learn a thing or 2…..

  7. john 9 months ago

    I know of a resident in the ACT who has done exactly as the new development is requiring and is seeing a return on the investment as a retrofit.
    Disconnected the gas put in AC, water heating and induction cooking works a treat.

  8. Brunel 9 months ago

    Then why are new houses in Vic required to have ducted gas heating?

    • Tim Forcey 9 months ago

      Homes are not required to have ducted gas heating. Some homes going in with no gas. See the many case studies / user experiences at “My Efficient Electric Home” on Facebook…

      • Brunel 9 months ago

        “Some homes going in with no gas.”

        Within 50 km of postcode 3000?

  9. Robert Comerford 9 months ago

    Interesting, it gets damn cold in Canberra in winter and I know my reverse cycle is next to useless when it gets below -5 up here in the hills. Spends more time blowing cold air trying to thaw out :>)

    • Tim Forcey 9 months ago

      Hmmm, my Daikin US7 air con is rated to be effective to minus 20 C. See discussion at My Efficient Electric Home on Facebook for more details re defrosting etc…

  10. Gordon Bossley 9 months ago

    Umm… isn’t the gas industry responsible for gouging customers like there’s no tomorrow over the last year or so? Well, tomorrow, is coming. One more disruption among many.

  11. Les Johnston 9 months ago

    Great to see the end of lighting a fire in our houses when the heat can be obtained by other means ie heat pump or reverse cycle. Combustion in your home causes air pollution which can be avoided. Indoor air quality must be included in the analysis. Burning gas when there are other options is coming to an end point sooner than we think.

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