The ACT has taken another step towards zero net emissions by lifting the mandatory requirement that mains gas infrastructure is rolled out to new housing developments.
There has been a long standing requirement under ACT planning laws that all Canberra households must be connected to the mains gas supply, a requirement that saw costly gas infrastructure installed in new suburbs despite rising gas prices and a growing recognition of the need to shift away from fossil fuels.
Under a draft amendment to the ACT Territory Plan, this requirement would be removed allowing the development of electric-only suburbs, making it easier to support households eliminate their emissions footprint.
ACT climate minister Shane Rattenbury flagged the ACT Governments intention of phasing out gas use altogether in the territory when he unveiled the ACT Government’s climate change strategy to 2025 in September last year.
The strategy included a commitment from the ACT government to develop a plan for achieving zero emissions from gas use by 2045, including a plan to transition households and businesses currently using gas appliances to zero emissions alternatives.
The ACT government has already observed a fall in gas usage across Canberra households, following surging gas prices that have raised costs for households across eastern Australia.
Since 2010, average annual household gas consumption by Canberra households has dropped by 22 per cent, with the proportion of households using gas to heat their homes falling from 60 per cent in 2011 to just 45 per cent in 2014.
The ACT has committed to reaching zero net emissions by 2040, and last year became the first State or Territory to shift from an electricity supply predominantly fuelled by coal and gas to one supplied by 100 per cent renewable electricity.
The ACT government established an interim emissions reduction target of 40 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels, with further targets to reduce emissions by between 50 and 60 per cent by 2025 and between 65 to 75 per cent by 2030. After shifting the territory’s electricity use to renewable energy, the ACT government now faces the tougher challenge of reducing emissions in the transport, gas and waste sectors.
“From today, we have removed the requirement for new suburbs to have a gas connection. This makes it possible for new suburbs to be zero emissions and is an important step in combating climate change,” ACT climate change and sustainability minister Shane Rattenbury said.
“The fact is, natural gas is a polluting fossil fuel and we must eventually phase it out in favour of clean energy. The ACT Government is plotting a sensible path to zero greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the climate change science.”
“Previously gas connections were mandated in new suburbs, and the ACT was the only Australian state or territory to require this. This rule was both outdated and not necessarily beneficial for homeowners. Removing the requirement for gas will see more Canberrans using electricity instead of gas, taking advantage of the ACT’s world-leading 100% renewable electricity achievement,” Rattenbury added.
The rule change is set to both help the ACT further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions footprint, as well as help stem rising energy prices for consumers.
As is the case for electricity infrastructure, the costs of rolling out gas infrastructure to households are passed through to all households through gas bills. There have been some fears that mandating the roll-out of gas infrastructure to suburbs that did not require it would unnecessarily increase gas costs.
In 2018, the ACT government trialled an exemption to the requirement for gas infrastructure in new suburbs, allowing the Ginninderry development in Canberra’s west to complete a completely electric development, and with rooftop solar systems installed on all homes as standard.
Around a quarter of the ACT’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the territory’s gas consumption, and is now the second largest source of emissions, after transport emissions, following the ACT’s shift to 100 per cent renewable electricity, which was completed last year.
The ACT government will consider ways of assisting households to further electrify their energy consumption, shifting more energy use from gas onto renewable electricity, and will also examine how the gas supply may be replaced by renewable alternatives including hydrogen.
Consultation on the draft amendment to the territory plan implementing the changes will be open until 6 March, with further details to be available on the ACT planning website.