Australia has set a national emissions abatement target of 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and is moving towards net zero emissions by 2050. Better late than never!
According to the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (the ASBEC–the peak body committed to a sustainable built environment in Australia) the country will not achieve these targets unless we start powering our buildings (including our homes) using renewables.
For many Australians, the first step towards powering their home with renewable energy is turning off the gas, and installing all-electric appliances. Not only are these more sustainable than their gas-powered counterparts, electric appliances are generally safer, more efficient to run, and just as (if not more) effective.
We asked the ASBEC executive director Alison Scotland, architect Alexander Symes, and electrification specialists Goodbye Gas for their expert advice about how and why you should make the switch.
Why is the electrification of Australian homes important?
In short, gas can never be renewable, but electricity can.
The purpose of electrifying Australian homes is twofold: to enable household use of renewable electricity such as solar (either now or into the future), and ensure we aren’t locking in fossil fuel infrastructure for decades to come.
‘By going “all electric,” you create the opportunity to power your home through renewables such as solar, wind and hydro, which can mean we decouple our reliance on fossil fuels,’ explains Alexander Symes, an architect passionate about designing all-electric homes and director of Alexander Symes Architect.
For households unable to install solar (due to finances or other restrictions, such as being a renter) they can alternatively invest in renewable energy by signing up for GreenPower.
Getting off the gas is particularly important for those in Victoria, where 76% of households are still connected to the gas network (compared to 43% in New South Wales, 10% in Queensland, and just 5% in Tasmania.)
Is creating an all-electric home expensive?
Some electric appliances bear a larger upfront cost than their gas equivalent, but research from multiple sources shows significant long term savings for electric-households powered by renewable energy.
According to Rewiring Australia, the average cost of running a fully electrified house and car is $1850 per year, compared to around $5300 for a gas home and petrol/diesel car.
On a macro level, a report from the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) confirms 100% electrification is the lowest cost and fastest emissions reduction pathway for Australia’s built environment.
How is the government helping?
There is currently no national plan for decarbonising fossil gas in Australia’s buildings, however, there are policies and incentives being rolled out on a state level to help individuals keen to make the switch.
In the ACT, for example, eligible residents can receive a zero-interest loan to help with the costs of energy-efficient upgrades under the Sustainable Household Scheme. Eligible homeowners can borrow up to $15,000, with up to 10 years to repay it.
Many states offer rebates for solar, battery, and hot water pumps. ‘Some councils have additional rebates for going all electric, so make sure you check when looking to upgrade your appliances,’ says Ben Russell, founder and director of Goodbye Gas.
What are the first steps to make my home all-electric?
An economical way to update your existing home, is to replace your appliances one at a time.
Alison explains, ‘I really like the adage being used by a number of initiatives across the country, and that’s “make your next one electric”… This means that we don’t expect everyone to go out and change their appliances straight away. It should happen in a measured way, such as when existing appliances reach their end of life, break down, or when you make major renovations or alterations to your home.’
ASBEC research shows that the main use of gas in the residential sector is for space heating (61%), followed by hot water (33%) and then cooking (4%), so the most effective appliance you can make is switching from gas heating to an efficient, reverse cycle air conditioner.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or are looking to make comprehensive updates, companies like Goodbye Gas can help streamline the process. Their team identifies all the gas appliances in a client’s home through a home visit, and develops an ‘electrification’ plan, complete with a quote for replacing each item.
Is there anything else I can do to make my home more energy efficient?
Absolutely. In fact, creating a sustainable home starts with reducing your overall energy requirements via draught proofing, insulation, and installing double glazed windows to reduce your reliance on mechanical heating and cooling.
‘Let’s remember that if it’s an older property, it would likely have been created before there were minimum energy performance standards in the building code. Your main focus would be improving the energy performance of your building first,’ says Alison.
But I thought gas was supposed to be cheap? And what about my gas cooktop?!
The popularity of gas can largely be attributed to some outdated ideas and myths. As Ben Russell explains, ‘People are used to cooking with gas. Historically gas was very cheap and the gas companies did a great job at marketing it to the masses as a clean, efficient product.’
We now know that gas cooktops can produce harmful contaminants including nitrogen dioxide and fine particles. According to a Climate Council report, a child living with gas cooking in the home faces a comparable risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke.
Lastly, some say it’s better to cook with gas than electricity-powered induction. Many top chefs have come out to dispel this myth, saying induction technology is faster, safer, easier to clean, and more precise.
Momentum Energy are owned by Australia’s largest renewable energy generator and offer accredited GreenPower. Sign up to one of Australia’s greenest power companies.