The Victorian gas network supplies over 2 million households, that is a whopping 76% of Victorian homes*.
The energy industry has been in the news a lot lately. You may have seen headlines warning of shortfalls in supply, price hikes, impending blackouts, and an oncoming energy crisis.
There has also been coverage of a handful of state and local governments encouraging home owners to go “gas free”, with proposals to reduce gas connections in new home developments and announcing some council offices are removing gas appliances.
In principle, these councils are trying to become more sustainable, and that’s commendable. In fact, we’re taking great strides to become more sustainable ourselves.
Targeting gas is near-sighted, and our research shows us that most Victorian’s want to keep using gas, and here’s why...
Keeping the heating on
The fact is, so many homes and businesses across Australia rely on gas that during the winter months, gas infrastructure delivers more energy than the electricity network***. It most likely powers that steaming hot shower you took earlier, the stove you use to cook dinner every night, the heating that keeps you snug in the depths of winter. Not to mention the multitude of small businesses and manufacturing that would be severely impacted. And it’s all delivered by the most reliable energy network there is.
The alternative is electricity. Over the last year, 62% of the energy in Australia’s NEM electricity grid was from coal-fired power stations, a figure which is not changing as quickly as you might think. By reducing natural gas usage in Victoria, most of the energy demand would shift to the Victorian electricity grid which is currently powered by 66% coal based electricity, an energy source with five times the carbon emissions of natural gas and an electricity network that is already struggling to meet demand.
It simply does not make sense to move more of our energy load to electricity, pushing the price of electricity up, creating higher carbon emissions, with less reliability and more uncertainty!
To us, the current energy challenges highlight the importance of energy stability and diversity, including the continued role of gas in maintaining energy supply to meet demand and consumer preference.
So, while it might sound convincing when a few parties announce they’re getting rid of gas, it doesn’t actually solve the sustainability problem. Instead, if you’re using grid electricity in Victoria, its making a bigger one.
The future is not as simple as gas vs electricity
Today, Australia’s energy system relies on diverse sources of energy – in Victoria natural gas provides double the energy of electricity in winter months. It’s important that as we move towards net-zero emissions we continue to use diverse sources of energy.
Decarbonisation of energy is a big challenge, and we need a range of solutions that provide reliable energy and can meet growing demand. Renewable electricity is a very important part of the answer, but investing in only one solution means developing a more costly and less reliable energy system overall and ignoring the development of renewable gases.
Using renewable electricity to produce and store renewable hydrogen can contribute to the decarbonisation of the gas in our networks alongside the shift to renewable electricity.
How? The majority of renewable electricity being produced today comes from variable sources such as wind and solar power. At times there is more renewable energy produced than the electricity network otherwise needs, which presents an opportunity for new and flexible ways of using electricity, like using it to produce renewable hydrogen gas from water using electrolysis.
Having access to a diverse range of energy sources (gas, wind, solar, electricity) also ensures that if one system goes down we have many options to keep vital services operational, something our customers tell us they already value and enjoy today.
Giving people a choice
So while some might try to stifle your home energy choices, removing gas also threatens the diversity and security of energy supplies in the future.
To the two thirds of Australian households* that continue to favour gas as their energy of choice, and enjoy reliable heating, hot water, cooking and more, we hear you.
We also don’t want your choice and ability to enjoy the benefits of gas to be reduced. We firmly believe people should be able to make their own decisions on their energy sources.
Cooking with hydrogen gas created from water and renewable electricity is the future
Doing what’s best for our planet
We are concerned by the impact fossil fuels have on our planet. But the answer is not to simply turn the gas off and abandon an existing asset that is already equipped to assist in decarbonisation as we transition from natural gas to renewable gas.
Many people would have you believe that we can just rely on renewable electricity to solve many of our energy problems. But that’s being over simplistic.
Renewable electricity has delivered some pioneering technologies but it’s not realistic to say that we can rely on renewable energy on a large-scale right now. With just 28% of Australian** energy coming from renewable sources,** and a target of 70% by 2050 we’re not even close to that scenario. This sector still faces an unreliable supply with ever increasing demand and is a network with very little ability to store energy.
So, what if we told you that a) gas is not in conflict with decarbonisation, and b) that working with gas could realistically lead to a more sustainable Australia that we can all get behind. Here’s how:
Renewable gases such as hydrogen and biomethane provide a clear pathway to decarbonise the gas used by Australians, and can also assist in efforts to decarbonise the electricity and transport sectors.
Renewable energy sources like wind and solar can be used in a process called electrolysis that creates renewable hydrogen gas from water. Even better, this renewable gas can be pumped through our existing infrastructure, and used in the same way natural gas is today.
Here at AGN, we’re working on the full conversion of our networks to renewable gas by 2050. We have already started delivering renewable gas in Mitchell Park, South Australia, with our next projects in Gladstone, Queensland and (subject to approvals) Murray Valley, NSW.
With renewable gas, we have a low-cost, zero carbon and reliable energy for homes and businesses.
We’re quietly confident that as awareness of renewable gas grows, so too will the view that the gas networks will continue to play a critical role in solving our energy crisis and moving towards a lower carbon Australia.
So if you are one of the many millions of Australian homes and businesses currently enjoying gas, be confident it remains the better environmental option to the coal-powered grid electricity. As we transition to 100% renewable gas you can be reassured that your household is on track to meet future emissions targets all while providing superior cooking, heating and hot water performance in a cost effective and reliable way.
** https://www.aemo.com.au/energy-systems/electricity/national-electricity-market-nem/data-nem/data-dashboard-nem#nem-dispatch-overview (Note that the NEM grid comprises of NSW, QLD, VIC, SA and TAS only)
*** Australian Energy Statistics 2021 Energy Update Report, Department of Energy.