Wollongong Greens Councillor Mithra Cox has a motion at Wollongong Council’s May 23 meeting, asking Councillors to consider switching off gas connections to all new homes and instead encouraging households to electrify everything on the path to net zero emissions.
“The simplest thing that we can do to meet our targets to achieve net zero emissions is to switch to renewable energy and to electrify our homes, cars and industry,” Cr Cox said.
“Already, 30% of homes have solar panels, and these homes have been protected from recent huge spikes in electricity. For homes without solar, many who were previously paying around $200 a quarter are now facing huge bills of $800 or more. For many with solar panels, even without a battery, homes are paying less than $100 for the quarter.
“Gas is a fossil fuel, and we know that we need to phase out all fossil fuels by 2050 at the latest – but as soon as possible.
“Homes that are being built now will be standing for 100 years or more. It is madness to equip them with a technology that we know will be obsolete in a few years time.
“There are now established technologies to replace all household gas appliances – including hot water, heating and cooking – that are cheaper, cleaner and healthier than their gas alternatives.
“Council has an important leadership role to play, be switching our own reliance on gas and showing that it is possible. By installing induction stoves in our community facilities it also gives people the chance to try before they buy.
“Gas stoves and appliances are also a leading cause of respiratory complaints, especially amongst children. Gas heaters were phased out of our schools – for our own health we should be phasing gas out of our homes as well,” Cr Cox said.
Notice of Motion
I formally move that:
- As part of the next Climate Mitigation plan, that Council investigate ways to reduce greenhouse emissions from gas, both within Council operations and in the broader community.
- This could include but not be limited to:
o Banning or discouraging gas connections in all new dwellings and greenfields developments
o Replacing gas hot water heaters at council pools and community facilities with electric, solar, or heat pump systems
o Replacing gas cooking facilities in Council owned building with electric appliances
- Wollongong Council in 2019 made a Climate Emergency Declarationcalling for urgent action to reverse global warming.
- Wollongong Council has developed a Climate Action Strategyacknowledging that urgent climate action is critical and planning to take practical steps to address climate pollution at a municipal level.
- Gas is a fossil fuel and must be phased out if the world is to achieve its target of net zero emissions
- It is now widely accepted that the cheapest and easiest pathway to decarbonisation is through electrifying everything: because electricity from renewable sources is cheap and easily accessible.
- Methane (the key component of LNG) is up to 83 times more pollutingin a 20 year period than carbon dioxide and fugitive emissions are routinely underreported (IEA 2022).
- The International Energy Agency has advised that no new gas fields can be developed if the world is to safely and sustainably achieve net zero emissions by 2050 (IEA 2021)
- Gas burned in the home releases a cocktail of airborne pollutantsincluding nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and particulate matter with a range of health consequences, particularly for the young, old and frail. Similar in impact to living with a cigarette smoker in the home, having gas appliances in a household increases the chances of childhood asthma by at least 12%. The risks to human health of gas appliances in buildings is particularly felt by lower income residents who are more likely to live in smaller, more populated households and lack the resources to adequately maintain their appliances to reduce these risks. (Climate Council 2020)
- Gas is increasingly uneconomicalwith the market price in NSW (AER 2022) roughly doubling in the 12 months from December 2020. As more people turn away from gas and towards renewable energy and increased energy efficiency measures the price of gas will rise as the remaining gas users carry the burden of pipeline infrastructure which the Australian Energy Regulatorhas identified as stranded assets. Households with an existing connection wishing to disconnect from gas face a disconnection charge.
- Gas is an increasingly insecure energy source. NSW draws much of its gas, through the Jemena pipeline from the Gippsland offshore fields in Victoria, which are depleting rapidly. Other sources of gas supply may be provided by future gas wells in Narrabri or from fracking fields in Queensland and/or the Northern Territory. The hunt for more gas to supply the domestic and import markets creates market volatility and carries environmental risk which can be avoided through renewable electrification.
- Gas connection refusals are increasing across the state, nationally and internationally.In 2019 the City of Berkeley in California were the first US local government to refuse new gas connections, by unanimous approval, across their municipal areas. In 2021 the ACT Governmentannounced a ban on new gas connections in developing suburbs and the City of Canterbury Bankstown have already proposed a denial of gas connections in key growth areas. A rapidly growing number of Councils are replacing gas in Council buildings in favour of renewably powered electric appliances to manage municipal carbon emissions and costs.
- The best way to safeguard future residents of the Wollongong City Council's economic and health interests, and to reduce climate impacts, is to not connect households and other buildings to gas in the first place.