Electrifying call for national ban on gas to new homes

Clean energy advocates are calling for practical help to make sure renters, apartment dwellers and poorer households don’t miss out on electrification.

Independent MP Allegra Spender on Wednesday urged federal Labor to show courage and ban gas connections to all new homes and set a date for ending residential use of gas across Australia.

Over the next decades, Australian households will need to upgrade or replace 4.5 million water heaters, five million gas stoves and install millions of solar panels and batteries, Ms Spender said.

“But we also need to acknowledge which of those families will have the hardest job getting the benefits of electrification,” she said.

Renters rely on landlords to improve energy efficiency and safety, people in apartments may not have control over energy choices and low-income families can’t cover up-front costs.

There is an “enormous opportunity” to save money at a time when households want and need to save money, co-host independent Senator David Pocock said at the industry briefing in parliament house.

“There’s a real appetite for it,” he told the Electrify Parliament event.

The family car has become an energy asset, or liability, as governments push to replace petrol and diesel-powered transport.

“Should poor people have a chance to buy an EV soon? I think so,” Dan Cass, co-founder of Rewiring Australia, said.

Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg said he wants Australia’s tax system to do more to support households make affordable choices.

But he warned the meeting on Wednesday against a “culture war” in efforts to push for the end of domestic gas.

The recent federal budget splashed $1 billion for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to provide green finance for electrification, including provision for landlords to upgrade rental housing, and $300 million to upgrade energy in social housing.

“That is critical work that will allow us to finance necessary transformation,” Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy Jenny McAllister said.

Local councils will share $100 million to power community centres, pools, sports grounds and other facilities with cleaner and cheaper renewable energy.

But Smart Energy Council CEO John Grimes called out “enthusiastic inaction”, with households still wondering what happens next.

People need help to navigate new investments, feed-in tariffs and what choices to make about new appliances or cars, he said.

Grattan Institute energy expert Alison Reeve said a “plain vanilla version” for saving money and reducing emissions is to move off gas and go electric in the home.

“You don’t have to have solar on your roof to save money, you don’t have to have a battery, you don’t have to have an electric car,” she said.

“It used to be that gas was both the cheaper alternative and was also a lower emissions alternative,” she said.

But state and territory governments – and energy regulators – have made an effort to transition the national grid off coal generation.

This means an all-electric home will produce fewer emissions over the coming decade, she said.

Ms Reeve said state and territory governments could make it easier to switch, including making sure there are enough installers.

Making sure plumbers have easier access to an electrical licence would be a good start, she said.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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